Silence Heals by Yolande Duran-Serrano and Laurence Vidal, translated by Mary Mann, 2012, Nonduality Press, Salisbury, UK.
By Marjorie Bair
This exquisite account of an awakening took hold of me as almost no others have, in some ways not dissimilarly to the way its subject, Yolande Duran-Serrano, was taken over by the silence of its title, “Silence Heals”. Even as I write, having just reread it again, I find myself in its thrall. The silence her reporting made alive, palpable and deeply familiar to me became an undeniable transmission.
This is the way she describes what happened following a sudden, spontaneous moment in which her thoughts disappeared and in their place there was a space, a silence, “an empty fullness”, “a tranquility that never ceased”. “I abandoned myself to this thing that had awakened within me, that had taken over everything.” (She names it “this thing” throughout, always italicized, “so as to not misrepresent it”.) “I fell madly in love with it.”
Yolande had just turned forty when, she explains, “in my end [was] my beginning”. She’d had neither interest nor exposure to metaphysical or personal development teachings or teachers, and at no point in her account here does she seek to understand the why or how of it. What we get, instead, is the richly described experience over five years of an intense but simultaneously simple transformation of everything she’d believed herself to be, replaced by “the joy of being nothing”.
The book unfolds from conversations begun when journalist and co-author Laurence Vidal comes to Yolande to interview her for a French magazine. Laurence asks, “How could I write about silence?” to which Yolande responds “There’s no need for a plan. Let silence do its thing; it knows.” “She had just lost her son when I first met her,” Laurence writes, “but her joy could not be shaken.” “Pain cannot co-exist with silence,” Yolande tells her as the interviews segue into an intimate friendship.
What we meet in this beautifully described encounter set against the Alps in the French city of Annecy are the parallel and intertwined stories of these two women, one in a profound love affair with Presence, the other in a contagious experience of her own gradual awakening, the two coming together to uncover the subtle dimensions of this thing as it reveals ever more of itself over time. We see how it plays out in the most ordinary of circumstances, decidedly not what would seem a “spiritual” life: at play with friends and lovers, partying, shopping, dancing, smoking, Yolande at work in a friend’s cafe, always free of worries, spontaneous, unpredictable, being with the “pure love of what is”.
In the early period of the book Yolande is “content to observe, discover what is happening, discover everything that keeps on coming, ever more intense, more alive, more clear.” The more time passes, the more she abandons herself to it. The silence “refused to release” her, the mystery she thought she would tame instead “taming me by its very presence”. She speaks of the “feeling of wonderment [at what’s] deep inside me, strong and gentle and caring and everything one can imagine…about the unimaginable.” “The individual, the ego, had ceased reconstructing itself.” “The individual melts into the totality of the moment as it manifests.” No longer does she perceive through her eyes, understanding or thoughts. That which is “prior to everything” is what perceives and “manifests through this remarkable silence”. “It holds me…and solves all problem. I don’t intervene.” “I don’t decide.”
Even as she moves through her life and engagements, Yolande’s entire attention, she tells us, is focused on “this overwhelming presence”, which “understands everything, includes everything” and is accompanied by a sensation “like something caressing the area around the heart”; everything else is background only. While she describes its constancy as one of calmness, “joy without its opposite” and fullness, further into her account she says “there is only this explosive ball of energy” and times of “an engulfing intensity—the senses explode”, a periodic “violence” she experiences as terrifying. And then there are the spontaneous “divine orgasms…an explosion of divine energy” that leaves the muscles in her stomach and thighs so sore “it is as if I had had hundreds of orgasms.”
As clarity deepens about what is arising in and as her, so does “the conviction that it is this very intensity that enables to world to appear.” “It is omnipresent all the time, always, always, always.”
For those, like me, who cherish the rare truly self-revealing spiritual biography, this inspiring account is a gem, taking us into the heart and lived life of one consumed by, surrendered to, and passionately in love with the radical reality she becomes.