Singing the Silent Song: The Healing Space Between Breath and Language

CUF Admin
August 9, 2015

Singing the Silent Song: The Healing Space Between Breath and Language

Talk by Siri Radha Kaur LeBaron
Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship
August 9, 2015

[Deep inhale and exhale – audibly]

We are conspiring. Conspire, from the Latin con spirare – to breathe together. Let’s breathe together. I invite you to place one hand on your lower belly, just below your navel. Place the other hand on your chest, right in the center. And let’s breathe together. And let’s do it consciously.

So, the movement of your breath travels throughout your whole body – you can use the placement of your hands to feel that movement, to tune into it. To really let yourself enter into the question “Where do I feel my breath?”

If you take nothing else from what I share with you today but this question, this placement of your hands, and the invitation to pay attention, then I will consider it a success. In fact, there is very little that I can add to the wisdom that arises in your own being when you pay attention to your breath.

If you like, you can go more deeply into the question, where do I feel my breath, by consciously softening the muscles around your eyes, letting your eyelids relax down or even close. And as you release any unconscious tension from your forehead, your jaw, your tongue, your neck and shoulders you may notice that your breathing is changing.

So we continue to hold open the space of that question, “Where do I feel my breath,” and we sense our way into the answer, and it is a little different for each of us. You may feel it in your belly, or in your chest. You may feel it in your nose or even in your throat. You may even feel it down in the soles of your feet.

It is not so much the answer that is important here. Rather, it is our capacity to dwell consciously in the space of the question — breath after breath. And I invite you to stay in this space as long you like, paying attention to what arises within you. We are breathing together, we are conspiring, consciously. So, let the words I am speaking, the sound of my voice weave through your inner awareness co-creating with you a sense of the spaciousness and capacity that is to be found in the question, where do I feel my breath.

In his letters to the young poet Franz Kappus, Mr. Ranier Maria Rilke writes, “. . . I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves . . . And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. . . . but take whatever comes with great trust . . . take it upon yourself and hate nothing.”

What comes in the space of conscious breathing? In short, yourself. And here it is wise to remember Rilke’s advice to “hate nothing.”

If you stay here long enough, you’ll meet the patterns of your own thinking, you’ll meet all the stories of who you are and what you have experienced, even the ones you don’t really like. Especially those.

I have, in my own practice of mindful breathing, encountered forgotten memories – both happy and sad. I have felt muscle tension peak and then completely release. I have cried, I have laughed, and I have had moments of complete emotional weightlessness, if you will. And in that, I began to stop relying on language to orient me in the experience.

I noticed that a feeling, once named instantly magnetized my history, and pulled to it, in a flash, stories of other times I had experienced that emotion, whatever it was: whether I named it anger, or fear. Love, hope, sadness, or joy – naming the feeling meant losing my breath. Not the function of respiration, but that space of awareness of my breath and the deeper, easier breathing that accompanies that awareness.

So, what happens, if we stop naming our feelings? Well, we feel them. Not as narratives, or personal stories, but as feelings. Physical, embodied, inescapable, changeable feelings.

And it’s not so easy to just feel what you’re feeling. Our parents and our educators, even our peers and our media have invested a tremendous amount of energy in teachings us what we should and should not feel. That we’re not supposed to laugh too much in church — even if someone farts. That we’re supposed to cry at funerals, even if our grief somehow feels more like what we call joy. But we’re not supposed to cry too much either, grieve too much. Because

that feeling – the feeling we might call “utter, complete despair” alludes to a primal depth of our being that cannot be readily managed or made useful. And it seems to demand that we pay attention to our own wounds, to our own feelings that we don’t want to feel.

Which is why we breathe. Our breath, not our words, is the horizon, the north star by which we navigate. “Were you thinking that those were the words, those upright lines? those curves, angles, dots? No, those are not the words. . . . Human bodies are words, myriads of words”

So, hold close to your breath, it is your guide-rope in the blizzard, your cable across the river. Stay in touch with your breathing, and you will always make it safely back home to yourself. Sane and sound. Ever more comfortable in the space of the question, every day living the answers, the best untold.

But yet we do tell. We tell one another things all day long. We are endlessly using language to communicate with one another. It is as if we place the meaning of our communication in these little boats called words. And we launch fleet after fleet of these word-boats. They sail out away from us on our breath and we hope, that when they arrive at the shore of another person’s mind, that our meaning, that precious cargo, has arrived intact and is treated with all the care and attention that it deserves.

But these word-voyages are dangerous. Boats get lost, they go off course, they sink. Other boats come along and there are battles. But mostly, no one knows how it’s going to go when the boats land and the meaning is unpacked. You can hope and you can plan and you can come to expect – but you never actually know how another person is going to respond to what you say.

I love you.

Do you remember the first time you said this to someone besides family? If, indeed, you said it to family.

I love you.

And what were hoping to hear back? I love you, too. I love you more. And maybe you heard, “I love you, too.“ Or maybe you heard, “I don’t feel the same.” Or “We can only be friends.”

I love you.

You can say this to someone every day, many times a day. And you can come to expect, “I love you, too.” Until maybe one day maybe it won’t be there. Maybe it will be “mmhmm.” Or “you, too.”

And you will stop, if you expectations have been upended. You will stop and I suspect you will have feelings. And you may name those feelings — and then pile more meaning into more word boats and send them full force at the other person. Many relationships are conducted in this armada fashion.

But just as we can ask ourselves “Where do I feel my breathing?” — are you still feeling your breathing – you can also ask yourself “Where do I feel my language?”

I invite you again into an experience of your own self.

Please, repeat after me:

I am. [I am]

I am [I am.]

Feel the inflow and outflow of your breath supporting the speaking, becoming the speaking:

I am. [I am.]

I am. [I am.]

Now move your mouth as if you can taste and eat the words:

I am. [I am.]

I am. [I am.]

Feel the vibration of the words in your head, your throat, your chest:

I am. [I am.]

I am. [I am.]

Let your eyes close, focus within, and speak it from your heart:

I am. [I am.]

I am. [I am.]

Speak it as a declaration of sentience for you and all beings, your consciousness co-arising, interdependently, a congregation of consciousness conspiring:

I am. [I am.]

I am. [I am.]

(gently) I am. [I am.]

Where do you feel your language?

When I let myself live inside that question, I find that I say a lot less. Reconnecting language to my body means reconnecting language to my breath, and I know that, as I breathe, I am connected not just with those immediately around me, but with all the Cesars, all the lovers, all the criminals, all the warriors and immigrants, and all the mothers and children of every species that lives and has ever lived on this earth. I am breathing with the trees and the mosses and the algae.

This is the healing awareness that is available when we listen to, from, and with our own bodies, when we dwell in the space of the question and do not run away from the self we meet there. This is a physical, psychological, spiritual, and social experience. Breathing – with all that is. Consciously conspiring – with all that is. Living from the groundlessness of our questions – without theologies, philosophies, psychologies – without the pretense of answer. In other words, without words.

What do you find in that space? You find yourself. Hate nothing.

In that, you will learn how to say “I love you” simply because I love you.

If your hand is still resting on your chest, know that it is resting over your heart chakra, the energy center that the yogis call anahata – the unstruck one. It is the home of the anahata naad, the sublime soundless sound, the cosmic hum. It is not created. The soundless sound is perceived in the depths of nondual awareness. It is a sound that arises, not from a mallet striking a key or from one vocal cord rubbing against its partner, but from the radiant presence

of the atman, the divine self that sings the silent song of great being, that declares without uttering a single word: I am.

The following is the reading given by Siri Radha Kaur LeBaron:
A Song of the Rolling Earth
by Walt Whitman [Edited for CUF talk]

1 A song of the rolling earth, and of words according, Were you thinking that those were the words, those upright lines? those curves, angles, dots? No, those are not the words, the substantial words are in the ground and sea, They are in the air, they are in you.

Were you thinking that those were the words, those delicious sounds out of your friends’ mouths? No, the real words are more delicious than they.

Human bodies are words, myriads of words, . . .

Air, soil, water, fire–those are words, I myself am a word with them–my qualities interpenetrate with theirs–my name is nothing to them, Though it were told in the three thousand languages, what would air, soil, water, fire, know of my name?

. . .

The workmanship of souls is by those inaudible words of the earth, The masters know the earth’s words and use them more than audible words.

Amelioration is one of the earth’s words, The earth neither lags nor hastens, . . . It is not half beautiful only, defects and excrescences show just as much as perfections show.

The earth does not withhold, it is generous enough, The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so conceal’d either, They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print, . . .

The earth does not argue, Is not pathetic, has no arrangements, Does not scream, haste, persuade, threaten, promise, Makes no discriminations, has no conceivable failures,

Closes nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out, . . .

. . .

To her children the words of the eloquent dumb great mother never fail, The true words do not fail, for motion does not fail and reflection does not fall, Also the day and night do not fall, and the voyage we pursue does not fall.

. . .

With her ample back towards every beholder, With the fascinations of youth and the equal fascinations of age, Sits she whom I too love like the rest, sits undisturb’d, Holding up in her hand what has the character of a mirror, while her eyes glance back from it, Glance as she sits, inviting none, denying none, Holding a mirror day and night tirelessly before her own face.

. . .

Tumbling on steadily, nothing dreading, Sunshine, storm, cold, heat, forever withstanding, passing, carrying, . . .

No balk retarding, no anchor anchoring, on no rock striking, Swift, glad, content, unbereav’d, nothing losing, Of all able and ready at any time to give strict account, The divine ship sails the divine sea.

2 Whoever you are! motion and reflection are especially for you, The divine ship sails the divine sea for you.

Whoever you are! you are he or she for whom the earth is solid and liquid, You are he or she for whom the sun and moon hang in the sky, For none more than you are the present and the past, For none more than you is immortality.

Each man to himself and each woman to herself, is the word of the past and present, and the true word of immortality; No one can acquire for another–not one, Not one can grow for another–not one.

The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him, The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him, The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him, The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him, The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him, The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him–it cannot fail, The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress not to the audience, And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, or the indication of his own.

3 I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete, The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and broken.

. . .

I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which responds love, It is that which contains itself, which never invites and never refuses.

I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words, All merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings of the earth, Toward him who sings the songs of the body and of the truths of the earth, Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print cannot touch.

I swear I see what is better than to tell the best, It is always to leave the best untold.

When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot, . . .

The best of the earth cannot be told anyhow, all or any is best, It is not what you anticipated, it is cheaper, easier, nearer, Things are not dismiss’d from the places they held before, The earth is just as positive and direct as it was before, Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are as real as before, But the soul is also real, it too is positive and direct, No reasoning, no proof has establish’d it, Undeniable growth has establish’d it.

4 These to echo the tones of souls and the phrases of souls, . . .

I swear I will never henceforth have to do with the faith that tells the best, I will have to do only with that faith that leaves the best untold.

Say on, sayers! sing on, singers! Delve! mould! pile the words of the earth! Work on, age after age, nothing is to be lost, It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come in use, When the materials are all prepared and ready, the architects shall appear.

I swear to you the architects shall appear without fall, I swear to you they will understand you and justify you, The greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and encloses all and is faithful to all, He and the rest shall not forget you, they shall perceive that you are not an iota less than they, You shall be fully glorified in them.