Posts Tagged ‘silence’

A whole day retreat is a luxury. If silence is to become a useful part of soul-training it has to be an achievable part of daily routine.

Maybe one aspect is about learning to use opportunities for silence as they present to us – swimming against the tide of Twitter and Facebook.

A friend of mine arrived for a meeting without knowing it had been cancelled. She found herself alone in a room with an hour to herself – no-one to talk to and no access to emails. All she had with her was her handbag, a notebook and pen. Her instinct was to find a coffee shop, a newspaper and ‘kill time’ until the next meeting an hour later –  but something troubled her. She had an important personal decision to make that she recognised she was avoiding.

The hour became her opportunity to map out her options and commit to change.

SILENT and LISTEN use the same letters. How strange I never noticed that before now!

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

The Curriculum for Christlikeness training suggests we start with 5 minutes of silence per day. The Mindfulness Meditation takes only 4 minutes. The Rule of Benedict requires all monks to practice 30 minutes of silence each morning.

Maybe it is not so much about time – more about learning to focus our attention.

What works for me is to use every opportunity of quiet to cultivate an easy flexibility through silence into curious listening.

I wonder if Facebook and Twitter constitute a significant threat to our ability to hold and value silence?


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Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything” Abba Moses

I don’t know if the cell I sat in taught me everything, but it certainly taught me a lot.

To celebrate the day in my life when I reached the age my father was when he died I booked a day retreat at a Benedictine Monastery. As I saw it, the rest of my life would be ‘bonus time’ that my father never had. That felt significant – I had to do something significant to mark the transition.

When my father died he had 5 dependent children at home, rows of books he wanted to read, and hundreds of budgerigars he was breeding. No neat closure for him. I cannot presume that I have a right to a longer life than he had.

Brother Christopher, the guestmaster, met me at reception and showed me to my room for the day – a spartan bedroom, normally home to a monk. I could join the brothers to chant the psalms before lunch and sit with them in silence to eat. Guests on solitary retreat are expected to have coffee with the guestmaster after lunch.

I was the only guest for the day.

And so I sat at the small wooden desk with the sun streaming through the window, my bible, journal and a couple of books before me.

OK, God, here I am.  I am up for anything you want for me for the day – an angel would be fine, your voice in the room . . I want to hear what you have to say about the rest of my life

and what I heard was . .

. . . .  S   I   L   E   N   C   E  . . . .

I read, prayed, wrote, reflected, joined the monks as they chanted (like this), enjoyed lunch with them (breaking the silence by speaking a couple of times), and had a terrific time over coffee with Brother Christopher talking about silence and the Desert Fathers. He gave me a couple of his books to read.

The afternoon was too short. As I reached the final hour I gathered my thoughts and experiences of the day to reflect on what it meant to me and what I heard from God:

I planned this day for you – I came ahead of you – I have been with you through it all – and will I go ahead of you

What took place between God and me on that day was deeply significant. Two years later, almost to the day, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I know God is with me.

Jesus often withdrew to a quiet place to pray. His temptation in the wilderness was about the battleground of his heart.

He who sits alone and is quiet has escaped from 3 wars; hearing, speaking and seeing: but there is one thing against which he must continually fight, that is, his own heart

This comes from the Desert Fathers. They recognised the value of silence – do we?

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