The white out of silence

In the Antarctic, explorers talk about ‘white out’.

It’s when you step outside your tent and see only white.

The ground is white, the sky is white, the horizon is white, the air is white.

‘It’s like vertigo,’ said one seasoned adventurer.

You look around for something stable, something to guide, something to anchor you; but if you’re alone, there’s nothing.

In the white fog, you don’t even know when your foot is going to touch the ground.

After describing the difficult conditions, the explorer was asked why he did it.

‘Curiosity,’ he said. ‘How will I adapt? What will I learn?’

As I host a silent retreat this week, I’m aware some can experience silence as a ‘white out’, a frightening loss of bearings, without fixity or anchor.

Though my wish for these brave souls, beyond the white out, is the clear blue sky of clarity and beauty… and views they’ve never seen before, which only silence can offer.

The sessions and meditations can be guiding posts; but the silent adventure is theirs, personal and profound.

You do not have to go to the Antarctic to be an explorer.

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