Practicing Silence

It’s spring break. I’ve laid out books to read; two books, one hallmark channel “type”, the other contemplative and philosophical. Which book do you think I could not put down? The nerdy abstract book of course, where the reader has to read each page two or three times to obtain understanding. The more I explored this book, the more intrigued I became with the topic of silence. Silence, the uncomfortable word that brings about unrelatable images because we so rarely practice it. Silence, the word our society associates with inferiority.

The title of the latter book I chose on our vacation, Silence and Honey Cakes, originates from a story about a young man searching for enlightenment by visiting his all-star favorite monk. The young man refrained from food, so eager to meet his potential mentor, he set forth to a room with excitement, only to find an elderly man sitting in silence. The young man not feeling at ease, immediately asked to be taken to visit with another monk, possibly missing an opportunity for a deeper understanding of life. The monk he missed meeting was “notorious for his silences, famous not for physical self-denial but for silence. ” The author Rowan Williams goes on to write, “Silence somehow reaches to the root of our human problem . Our words help to strengthen the illusions with which we surround, protect and comfort ourselves; without silence, we shan’t get any closer to knowing who we are before God.”

So, what is it that causes us to fear silence? Reading these pages over spring break, nodding my head in agreement as I learned something new, but afraid to attempt the lesson of silence. That is until this week when life turned completely upside down, and I had nothing else to say, figuratively and literally. So I began to practice silence. How does one practice silence? For me it was easy. I sat in my car, too tired to care any more, rolled the windows down, turned off my phone, turned off the radio, turned off the car and just listened. And in the silence two beautiful birds one brilliant red, the other a modest in his colors , sat to the left of me on a tree, maybe five feet away. We sat there in total silence together and in that moment I felt closer to God.

I’ve practiced again since this event. I’m no longer afraid. Lysa Terkeurst writes in her book, You’re Going To Make It , “Isn’t it the loveliest thought that God might be waiting for there to be some silence in our lives to share some of His best secrets with us? ” Silence may be the true pathway to a closeness to God. This morning I practiced again. My practice entailed, walking with the dogs as I usually do each morning, but this time I turned off the thoughts in my head. I listened. I listened to the crickets in the darkness, the swoosh of the grass created by my feet, and rustle of the leaves as the dogs ran off leash through the woods. This practice is purposeful, sacred, and often profound.

Try it. Spend 10 minutes, turn your timer on your phone. If it’s nice outside, find a tree to sit under. As you sit, when your thoughts start to wander, keep bringing your thoughts back and focus on that one branch in front of you, or close your eyes and go to that place in your mind that gives you comfort.

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