The Volcano That Taught Me to Listen

By Gabrielle Thompson

For about half my life, I thought of prayer as my activity. I would talk to God, telling God all of my thoughts, concerns, and wishes. When I was done, I would thank God and be on my way with the rest of my daily routine. Only later did I discover that a deeper dimension of prayer, perhaps the most important, is listening. Some call it the Silence. It is where we meet God's activity.

Twenty-one years ago I was employed as a registered nurse on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. I was in a work situation that was very stressful. I was new to the island and didn't know anyone with whom I could share my very heavy burden. One day after work I got into my little green Volkswagen Beetle and drove to the top of Haleakala Crater. It was the beginning of a loving relationship with listening, with the Silence.

The Silence means that I get to do the most precious thing that I can do, commune with God—feel God's presence and know that I am one with the Holy Spirit. This is a time that I get to be truly still, more still than a rock on the floor of the hot summer desert, more still than in sleep. It is a time of peace-filled anticipation.

I used to drive up the crater about four in the afternoon. On days that were cloudy, I would drive through clouds and then above them. There was always sunlight at the top of the crater. On the way, I would pass many tourist buses coming down loaded with noisy and happy people.

In those days the road to the top of the crater was narrow and twisting—a real challenge to negotiate successfully. No matter how much traffic I encountered or how bad the weather was, I was never afraid, for my intent was to get to the top of the crater, where I knew that silence and peace were waiting for me.

The crater rises above the altitude that supports plant life and so the landscape became more and more open as I ascended that precious mountain. At a glance, I was able to see clearly for miles. It was a place of nothingness and “every-thing-ness.”

I would park, draw in a deep breath of the clean, healing air, and get out of my car. I had my spot on the top of Haleakala where two large boulders met. It was a natural seat. I didn't have to alter anything to find my place of comfort, and it was always waiting for me.

I did not know about meditation, but I did know about God and that loving presence that is always with me. So I would just sit and be with the stillness—the Silence. No birds, no animals, no bugs, no plants. Just the crater, the sky, God, and me. There was nothing more that I could have wanted. Nothing left to need.

There was always a strong breeze on the top of the crater. I didn't mind it, and in fact, decided to think of it as a sign of Spirit. I enjoyed feeling it wash over my skin, through my hair, carrying away all the negativity and worries that I had brought to this sacred place. When I was ready, I would turn my head ever so slightly and then I didn't hear the wind; I just felt it. I was in the Silence, and I stayed there for as long as I needed to.

Through no effort of my own, all my concerns left. They were carried away on God's current of steady breath, out into the heavens to be soothed and healed. I just let go.

I never timed how long I stayed with that wonderful crater and its silence. I merely stayed until I was filled with peace. Sometimes it was a few minutes and other times I would drive back down the crater long after dark. I never thought of rushing this process and never anticipated an end to that time; it just came. There would come a knowing that I was healed and that I could resume my life in peace.

Those times of being on ''top of the world" were magic to me. I didn't know anything about my own divinity or my ability to commune and be filled with the Holy Spirit, but I did know that each time I went to the place of Silence, I came back far richer than I ever thought possible.

Today as I prepare for meditation, to go to that place of silence that is within me, I find that the trip is very similar. I negotiate the narrow and twisted road of my human mind that is filled with large buses of noisy thoughts about things in the outer world. As I become still and concentrate on God, I feel and "see" myself pass through the clouds of doubt and fear. As I break out of those clouds, into the light, I know that I am in my place of comfort and peace. In my inner place of silence, I don't have to turn my head or make any effort to hear the silence of God. It is always there, waiting for me. Then I just listen—listen to the life force that is always with me, supporting, guiding, and nurturing me, giving me exactly what I need at that moment.

I go into the Silence during those periods of my day when my willingness is the strongest, when I am able to spend whatever time I need. I find that there is always exactly the amount of time available to me that I need. When I merge with the silence, I am able to feel God fill me with the wisdom, love, and guidance to take me to our next meeting.

In those times of Silence I hear the voice of God. That voice takes many forms, probably to accommodate whatever communication I am able to receive at that moment. Sometimes I hear a word, sometimes a thought comes to me, one that is new, one that is natural, one that I recognize as right. Sometimes I don't perceive anything in a form that I can identify.

What I always get is the peace and the knowing that I am with God and that everything is all right. A knowing that as long as I keep coming into the Silence, as long as I remain open to the divine mind of my creator, I will be guided, assisted, and nurtured beyond comprehension. I will therefore be able to do all that I need to do.

So the Silence is that which I seek with a joy-filled heart. It is that which is always there, within me, available to me, no matter where I am, no matter what is going on in my life. I am able to go to the top of my crater whenever I need to see clearly, feel the loving healing breath of God, and be nurtured. The Silence enables me to do that which is mine to do and empowers me to do it with the loving, caring Spirit that heals me and those with whom I share my life.

The Silence is God. I will never forget my first encounter with the precious Silence so many years ago on that beautiful island crater, and I thank God for sharing the divine essence with me and for making my life a sacred journey that I eagerly anticipate with the dawn of each new day.

Reprinted from the January 1994 issue of Unity Magazine®.