Closing our eyes and being silent and looking at the world and being silent are two very different things. The silence we’re looking for has nothing to do with inactivity or the lack of sound. The silence we’re looking for is silent action, an indifference, detachment, indiscrimination to outcome. Like the one necessary for Japanese Calligraphy.
Silent, graceful action is only achievable if some inner battle is won even before it begins, much like what Sun Tzu mentions in the art of war.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
So what’s this battle? The battle is with what intention you enter the business of the world. Do you seek to win? One way of looking at this is that the time is right when the mind is right, and the mind is right when the heart is right.
You can have as much success with getting in touch with your heart by reading poems, as with meditation. Both are tools by which you dissolve mind, fear and ego.
A monk therefore is like an athlete who never enters a competition, a warrior that never fights, and spends his whole life at training camp. His retreat from the world is mere practice, an attempt at get in touch with his heart, but no way to live, the real test comes when he re-enters it.
The secret to being in the world but not of it (or silent action) lies in self-realization, the realization of love, our true nature, either by means of poetry or meditation. That way we can be more graceful, and silent in the world, no matter rank, occupation or family situation. Being a monk is the easy way, mastery is not found in the monastery, it’s found fully immersed in life.