Oct 2, 2011

The Sound of Silence.



Silence is like a river of grace inviting us to leap unafraid into its beckoning depths. It is dark and mysterious in the waters of grace. Yet in the silent darkness we are given new eyes. In the heart of the divine we can see more clearly who we are. We are renewed and cleansed in this river of silence. There are those among you who fear the Great Silence. It is a foreign land to you. Sometimes it is good to leap into the unknown. Practice leaping.
MACRINA WIEDERKEHR, Seven Sacred Pauses




Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing.
- Rachel Naomi Remen


What do you know about silence? Does it make you feel like you need to say something? Does it make you feel comfortable or awkward? I have been thinking about silence for about 9 months now. Yes, we always think about things for a long time before we actually try them out :) Silence is the relative or total lack of audible sound. Silence can refer to the lack of communication or it can also be total communication. Yeah, think about that for a minute :)

A long, long time ago when I was about 39 there was an activity at the church building in Indiana, where we lived at the time, and I decided to go. I will never forget the fear in my heart when the person in charge of the activity wanted to make a point by having us stand and stare into someones eyes....someone who we did not know very well...we had to stand there while a song played and simply look into this person's eyes. In my head, I was not very mature about this activity I was dreading it. I mean people never do things like that in real life. It is too personal. To still. To revealing. I felt so incredibly awkward but there was no graceful way out of it. At first it was exactly as I imagined.....awkward....but then I started really looking into this particular ladies eyes and I was startled to discover a connection forming. It felt so strange as I seemed to feel her happy and her sad just by looking into her eyes and not saying anything. I did not want to admit that it was sort of cool and because of this experiment I will always have a connection with this woman that I hardly knew.

Sadly, silence and Jennifer have never ever been together in the same sentence. Way too scary :) I have always been on such a never ending quest to know you, connect with you, and trade information with you that silence and being still were rarely on my radar. But I am happy to say that has been changing....ever so slowly... but it is changing. I love learning something new about myself. And I have learned that silence and I are actually very compatible. I am attempting things I never have ever attempted before. I sit on my front porch in the morning for at least a half an hour and just listen and think...no phone, no computer, no book, no cell phone, just me and the front porch. I notice where the sun is shining. I notice the sounds the birds make. I notice the leaves. I have been going on hikes by myself. I spend hours in a silent car with no cd's or radio just the open road and silence. I go shopping by myself. I even find myself not needing to defend myself and just let silence be my answer to rumors and untruths that reach my little ears...don't get too excited I am SO not perfect at this part but I am definitely dabbling in it :) Silence is becoming strangely comforting.

It can be difficult to interpret silence. Does it mean anger, hostility, or disinterest? Or does it mean something else? When I was reading about silence I found out that people who live in Western cultures feel uneasy with silence. So true! When I was teaching seminary I was encouraged to embrace silence and not to feel any rush to fill a quiet space with words. I was taught that it would not hurt those seminary kids to have a moment to reflect. And it turns out it really was a good thing.

There are two kinds of silence. One is good and one is bad. The one where you give the silent treatment or you are quiet because you are too weak to assert yourself can create dysfunction or disunity. The one where you wait to say something because you are trying not to speak impulsively...yeah, thinking before you talk :) Do people do that? :) that silence is good.

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