Mindfulness of Nature

Keeping Quiet, Pablo Neruda

Greetings from the Austrian Alps where we are half way through our “Mindfulness of Nature, Yoga and Hiking” holiday week!

It’s great to be back up here at MoaAlm with another lovely group of people exploring our relationship with the natural world, whilst enjoying the mountains, forests, rivers, sun, rain and thunderstorms! As well as quiet times together appreciating the wilderness, we’ve also enjoyed many laughs, thought-provoking conversations and delicious fresh food cooked by our hosts. We may even managed to sneak an evening viewing of the Sound of Music in last night over a cheeky schnapps… (it has to be done up here I feel!?)

Today is a “free day” for the guests so this morning, I walked up the hill behind MoaAlm and sat in the long wet meadow grasses surrounded by wild flowers – yellow, reds, purples, whites and greens. I listened to the warm, light rain and took in the gigantic glacial valley below me, the waterfalls crashing down the mountains from above me, the snow-capped mountains in the distance and the calls of coal tits, ravens and nutcrackers in the forests. I felt incredibly lucky to be there.

But perhaps most of all, I embraced that stunning stillness and deep silence of the mountains.

As I sat there, this poem – which I shared with the group yesterday evening – came to mind – and I thought I would share it with you here…

Keeping Quiet
by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda

English version by Alastair Reid

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

My favourite verse – which came to mind as I sat up on the mountain this morning was this:

“If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves

The silence of the wild really has the power to interrupt the sadness and frustration of “never understanding ourselves”.  As I sat on the mountain, I thought to myself “This is it. This isn’t just an escape. This is life”.  And for a moment, there really was no need to understand anything.

Once again, it did make me wonder why, in the words of Pablo Neruda, we spend so much time “moving our arms so much”.  What would the world be like if we stopped and listened to the silence more often (and it doesn’t have to be in the mountains, we can find silence anywhere we are)? How would we then choose to spend our time? How would we choose to behave? How would we treat ourselves, people close to us, others, and the rest of the natural world?

I hope you too enjoy Neruda’s words!

Claire x



4 thoughts on “Keeping Quiet, Pablo Neruda

  1. Jim Hesketh

    I can sense the silence of the mountains as I read about your Austrian experience. Check out “ The Wisdom of Wilderness” by Gerald G. May. A gem of a book that supplements, for me, your course on re-wilding at Trigonous.

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Thanks Jim! I will definitely get the book you suggest.
      Sending you lots of mountain silence from the high Austrian peaks of Hohe Tauern National Park!

      Claire x

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