The Spiritual Discipline of…Silence

“Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10

Silence.

Definition:

Quiet.
Unplugging the machines.
Putting that cats in the basement (because they are LOUD and the exact opposite of silence).
Get away from the television.
Stay away from stores.

This is a no-brainer. And yet, it is the most difficult thing to actually do…because to achieve real silence especially in this day and age, it requires not doing, literally, not listening to music, not moving, not thrashing about the kitchen trying to cook and clean at the same time, not having the television on in the background, not being in a coffee place surrounded by the chatter of locals. What’s ironic is that I’m writing this while watching television. Okay. I turned it off. But, seriously, the spiritual discipline of silence to me feels like a foundational thing not only for our spiritual lives, but for our lives, in general. Silence helps generate and facilitate space. I can work better. I clean better. I interact with people better. I relate to my husband and family better. It’s plain and simple.

I found this on another blog:

“There is exterior silence and interior silence. The monastery is, or should be, a place of at least relative silence in the sense of the absence of unnecessary noise and agitated movement. We are less assaulted by harsh sounds; rather we are soothed by the mostly harmonious sounds of nature, and bells and our Gregorian chant. This pacifies our sensibility and refines it. A heightened awareness is a common experience in solitude and affects all the senses, for they are all linked together. In silence we are more vividly aware of colour, and perfume and touch, because we are more present to ourselves. And little by little, we become attuned to the breathing spaces of silence between the sounds, as it were, like an underlying melody, not exactly ‘heard’, and yet somehow perceived, something that can take the character of a presence.Silence begets an attitude of listening. The artist, the philosopher, the praying person may perceive or, at least, express in different words diverse aspects of this reality, but all have need of silence, receptivity, and awareness.” I’ve heard that the difference between surviving or perishing in a pile of rubble (earthquake or whatever) is often whether a victim has access to a “breathing space” or not. Not hard to run with that illustration, is it?

The spiritual discipline of these breathing spaces are basically essential for our survival. Throughout this week during study leave I plan on taking big chunks of time not just in the morning but throughout the day to be silent…to sit…to be quiet…and know God. I hope it carries over into next week, particularly during Advent, when I will need the pauses the most.

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