The Benedictine Associates continue to study and reflect on the program “Being Benedictine." Last month we watched the video presentation of Judith Valente, an oblateof Mount St Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, Kansas, on silence. A lively and enriching discussion followed. Later in February we will discuss Discernment from the same program.
Silence is defined by Merriam-Webster as forbearance from speech or noise; absence of sound or noise: stillness. Now, I am not sure we can ever reach total absence of sound or noise, but we strive to do our best.
In our complex world we have many distractions (TV, radio, cell phones, computers, social media, and emails just to name a few) and there are all kinds of noise (traffic, kids, pets, co-workers) around us. It is hard to find that oasis of quiet/silence. Some, like me, may not feel comfortable with silence at first. In our society, it is considered wasting time if we are just sitting around not accomplishing anything! Quiet time or silence can be very beneficial in our daily lives. Even our pets can appreciate it. Cats curl up on laps, dogs lay quietly at the feet of their owners. Thomas Keating said, “There is so much talking that goes on that is so utterly useless.” And again he said “It is in the sky, the sea, the Redwoods that you will find silence.” God’s voice is heard in the silence.
Sitting quietly listening to our inner voices, leaving an opening for God in our lives, being open to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit is anything but a waste of time. As we sit to quiet ourselves, relaxing, letting go of the need to control everything around us. Letting go of hurts, anxieties, pressures (often that we put on ourselves), and our “to do” lists. We can learn to let go and learn to be open to whatever may be calling out to us. In silence we open a space where God can discover us. Silence is a doorway.
I often experience that I can get more tasks done after I have taken the time to experience silence. That time of silence helps me to refocus and to stay focused on the task at hand. Silence orients us to right action. On one of your busiest days, taking time for silence may be the last thing you think about doing. But if you take the time, you may find that you too are able to focus better.
As Benedictines we practice several methods to experience silence: Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, meditation and contemplation. There are all kinds of resources to help you get started on practicing any one of these methods.
I’d like to share with you Thomas Keating’s poem ‘In Silence.’
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be Silent, they try to speak your name.
Listen to the living walls.
Who are you? Who are you? Whose silence are you?