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Column: Silence In The Snow

Heights Columnist

Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013

Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013 22:02

Simply because I could, I took the opportunity over the last three days to do absolutely nothing. Feel free to call me lame, but you didn’t catch me playing beer pong on a handcrafted snow table or building a snowman in a bikini. I didn’t climb on top of the Plex or sled down the hill behind Iggy. Instead, I spent most of the weekend in my room (read: my bed) alternating between watching Breaking Bad and finishing a book for class. This extreme laziness even extended to my meals, as mac and cheese and Stacy’s pita chips became my sole sustenance.

Before you go ahead and completely write me off, I will confess that I emerged from hibernation Saturday afternoon—long enough to take in all that Nemo had to offer. And for me, what Nemo offered was silence.

Just as the winds died down and the last snowflakes descended upon Chestnut Hill, I decided to take a quiet walk across Middle Campus. As I made my way slowly, down each crudely carved path, the sun began to peak out from behind the clouds, and the last of the snow settled to the earth. I was left noticing the comfortable stillness of my surroundings.

Have you ever really observed how quiet snow is? The sensation took my breath away, and I began to realize that silence is something you can listen to and learn from. It has a certain quality and dimension all its own. Left alone with only my thoughts and the screaming silence, my peaceful walk through the snow became a practice in meditation, a spiritual experience that I have only recently come to be familiar with.

Under the tutelage of John McDargh, my Religious Quest colleagues and I are growing to understand the power of silence and meditation as we study the Buddhist tradition. Just as I did on this soundless Saturday afternoon jaunt, we begin each class with a centering silence, bringing our minds and bodies to the present moment. At first, the exercise made me self-conscious. Was I breathing too loud? Did everyone around me have his or her eyes closed, too? Over time, however, I’ve let my guard down and now crave these opportunities to reflect on my day.

My budding relationship with silence has allowed me to know myself more fully, and it has a certain religious quality to it. The poem “Shoveling Snow with Buddha,” my inspiration for this column, captures the religious essence of the inaudible: “This is so much better than a sermon in church, / I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling. / This is the true religion, the religion of snow, / and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky, / I say, but he is too busy to hear me.” Unfortunately for the speaker of this poem, he’s struggling for small talk with the master of silent meditation.

While I won’t tell you to ignore your friends when they’re talking to you, I do believe that finding time to just stop for a minute or two during a stressful day can make a world of difference. It’s not easy, I agree, and until recently, I would do anything to avoid being alone with my inner monologue. Take my advice though, and give it a try. When life looks like a twisted knot, silence can be the unraveling force you seek, for deep within those pockets of quiet lie the answers to your questions. If any of you seniors out there are, like me, beyond confused about the next step, that tiny shuffle that takes us from our sheltered Boston College lives into the harsh light of reality, I would hurry up and take a silent walk through the snow before it melts.

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