Silence is an interesting practice. Interesting as in, horribly difficult. Once, in a yoga class, I had a student who was super uncomfortable with 8 minutes of savasana - she honestly could NOT be still for that long. Silence was completely unavailable to her.
So she did bicycle crunches while we practiced silence.
You might giggle. Cause it's a little funny. But, think about what you would do if you abruptly didn't have access to your phone, or the internet, or the television, or another person. What if you were completely cut off from all of your beautiful, and well-loved, distractions? What if the hum of electricity faded away, the rush of cars driving past your window suddenly hushed and the chatter of your co workers, children and friends instantly ceased.
You might start doing bicycle crunches too.
Because we honestly don't know what to do with silence. It's an uncomfortable and restless space for most of us. Yet we crave it. We go camping, take long drives, turn off the lights and the TV at night so we can sleep. Silence is like breathing. We don't know how much we depend on it.
Is it starting to make sense? Why silence is a practice? It requires intense discipline. It becomes a choice that we have to make. Silence just isn't as readily available to us as it would have been even a few hundred years ago. Even when we sleep at night, we're listening to the hum of the electrical current in the city around us. Our sleep patterns have lost their original intent. We no longer wake up and go to sleep with the sun and we have artificial light and appliances that keeps us a teensy bit restless all the time.
In Phoenix, during monsoon season, it's not unheard of for the power to go out. Every single time that happens, something releases in my chest. I honestly feel a deeper sense of rest when everything shuts down.
Silence. A deep absence of sound and vibration.
This is what happens when we enter into a spiritual act of silence. We shut off the sounds and vibrations of the world around us. We seek a space that is void of voices, distractions and movement. We get very very still and then we listen. We listen for the voice that we have to struggle to hear over the sounds of life. We creep into lonely places so that we can sit and wait.
Henri Nouwen says that somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning.
We get that, don't we? In order to appreciate the people we love, the adventures we live and the communities we serve, we have to get quiet. We need to be reminded of who we are and what we're doing.
Like Moses on the mountain with God.
Like Elijah in the cave, listening for the whisper.
Like David in the wilderness.
Like Jacob on his road to Laban.
Like John the Baptist in the desert.
Like Jesus seeking quiet places.
Silence leads us to truth. Silence leads us to an unshakeable inner peace. Silence is where we are taught.
Maybe try this: choose a day to practice silence. Turn off your phone for an hour. Leave your house and find a quiet place to sit. And then sit. Pray. Listen. Close your eyes and connect to the sensation of the quiet world around you. Feel the sun on your skin, listen to the wind brushing past you. Feel the ground underneath you. Be in that moment, without words for a few minutes. If you feel the need to do crunches, shake out your limbs a little. Invite God into your silent space. Ask him to whisper to you. Relinquish your need to fill this space with words. Just be.
It will require a lot of intention from you, friend, but it will be worth it. Without any expectation or striving, enjoy your short time of being alone and silent. Let the wordlessness minister to you. Allow your heart to find rest in simply being in the presence of Love.
And, if you're brave, do it again tomorrow.