I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Jean Wise’s reflection on the power of silence:
I love words. I love taking sounds and syllables and dance with them on a page either in my journal or in my work as a writer. My ears tingle with the sound of words as they roll from my tongue in speaking or in song.
Words have their benefits. They form a container for me to hold reason, a sense of control and clarity and dare I say, my ego. We live in a society where what we do and what we accomplish drives our value and in words we find meaning in this chaotic world.
Lately I have been listening to live streaming and podcasting. I enjoy learning and it is through the words and wisdom of others I grow. I listen as I walk each morning. I listen when I take an afternoon break. Don’t tell anyone, but I have even listened in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.
But I have been gorging on words lately, an overconsumption of words – written and spoken. I soon realized something was amiss. I felt off kilter; unbalanced. My attention span shrunk with all the distractions. Our culture of noise encompassed me and coated me with its desire and wants and expectations. Too many words fragmented my sense of being.
Then I read a statement from Richard Rohr: “As a general spiritual rule, you can trust this: The ego gets what it wants with words. The soul finds what it needs in silence.”
Silence – I forgot to hold onto its promise and presence. As a dancing monk here on the Abbey of the Arts, I forgot the very first principle of our Monk Manifesto.
“I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a culture of noise and constant stimulation.”
Time to restart once again with a basic spiritual habit that I know nourishes my spirit: silence.
The external noise and internal chattering will never cease until I intentionally find pockets of silence to rest. To center, to become myself again. To enter my inner cloister for refreshing peace. To hear that true voice within me.
What kept me wrapped up in noise instead of pursuing silence sooner? I finally realized it was fear. Fear of what I would miss by not staying connected. Society has even given a name for this phenomenon: FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.
I used to think practicing silence was an occasional habit to embrace but more and more I am seeing it as an essential daily, even a foundational piece. I need to let go of the words that contain and refrain and dive into the pool of refreshing silence. There I will find freedom without constraints. In silence I come before the throne of God just to listen and to be.
I love words but need to remember they are just tools, which have their purpose at times, but also not all the time. If I cling too tightly to them, my hand and my heart cramps with its tension. It is in letting go and entering silence I find the important work of my life.
So I return to silence with a deep thirst. I realize once again I crave silence more than words.
I begin my mornings with contemplation. I sit in my chair. Light a candle, Close my eyes and deep breathe. I take in silence and expel the noise within. I invite God to fill this newly opened spacious room in my heart and mind.
I find pockets of quiet throughout the day. I pause and pay attention to that present moment. I stop, look around, and listen deeply.
I end my days soaking in silence. The dark whispers its invitation to sit still before I sleep and appreciate the gift of that day with gratitude.
Coming back to silence I am amazed how wonderfully refreshing these moments are in the midst of a noisy chaotic work week.
Henri Nouwen wrote: “In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me – naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken – nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.”
“Silence is God’s first language,” wrote John of the Cross.
I do love words. But even more I love to dwell in the space between the words or even beyond all language. Silence opens within us a space to rest, regroup and to return to the world restored and refocused. The practice of silence is a simple, essential and powerful way to stay connected with ourselves in a noisy inner and outer world.
Jean Wise is Journalist/writer, blogger, speaker, and retreat leader. She is spiritual director, RN, and an Associate in Ministry, living in northwest Ohio. Her passion is to help others deepen their walk with God. She writes twice a week on her blog at: www.healthyspirituality.org. She is the author of Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: An Advent Devotional.