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22 Jan 2019

On silence


The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of the thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name:
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.


Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching: One
Translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, 1972


Some things needs to be understood over and over again. The importance of silence is one of the reoccurring revelations in my life.

In the Daoist tradition Wuji is the void from where everything else springs. It is the oneness that precedes the first division into yin and yang. In my (admittedly simple) understanding this should not be seen in context of linear (temporal) progression, but rather as reality being layered, the void is always there “under” our complex human consciousnesses and societies.

At a personal level silence connects closely to the wuwei principle – wuwei implies being in touch with the void. If I want to act skillfully, I need to respond spontaneously to the world and to do that I need to have an empty mind, uninhibited by ideas about the correct course of action. This is true for my daily interactions with friends and family, for giving a massage – I can’t be sensitive if I think I know what to do before interacting with the body, and for embodied practices such as dance and taiji.

Here follows 3 of the significant events in my life where I have rediscovered the importance of silence:

At the Borderland (2015) in Boesdal Kalkbrud my partner and I received the deep insight that nature actually wants to be in connection – it is just that we never listen. When we then sat down and became silent together it was like the land really talked to us, although not in a language that could be understood through the mind.

This summer (2018) I spent 20 days alone in a summerhouse on the coast of southern Norway. This is the longest time I have spent alone in my whole life and I noticed some subtle but fundamental changes in myself afterwards. I felt much more silent in myself, but also more vulnerable and private – something which is still with me now, 6 months later.

During the last circling weekend I organized (January 2019) I had a very strong experience when one of the participants manifested silence in the room in what felt like a magical moment to me. Staying with the silence brought a very clear realization to me – this is where everything I want comes from. Without the silence, there is no possibility for presence and connection.

The void cannot be understood with the mind. It cannot be explained by our ideas and concepts as the first lines in the Tao Te Ching puts it. But when we become silent it seems to me that we can be with it and move from it.