When was the last time you intentionally scheduled time for silence? Silence energizes my soul like a healing therapy. An overwhelming introvert, my aversion to noise and communication demands creates daily challenges I often find exhausting. Discovering the sounds of silence replenishes my depleted energy and beleaguered senses. Actually, a regular practice of silence benefits everyone from children to adults, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! Where we learn some easy ways to be more present “in the moment” at our jobs, in our homes, with our families and friends.
Learning to recognize God and what He has for us in each divine moment He offers. We acknowledge the belief that God is with us always.
We confess His presence is available to us, lifting our spirit and helping us with power and grace. Learning the art of “stillness” so we can hear His voice and view ourselves, others and our surroundings through His eyes.
the benefits of silence
In a culture inundated with technology and information, silence remains a peculiar aberration. The number of my colleagues whose cell phones accompany them to the restroom is scandalous. Our badgered minds, overstimulated with information they cannot process plead for respite. Discovering the sounds of silence provides a valuable pause replete with purposeful advantages.
Silence essentially calms the brain more than relaxing music. While music commands many benefits, calming the brain is not one of them, in fact the study showed music stimulated the brain. A recent study showed remarkable outcomes of the absence of auditory stimuli on brain cells resulting in rejuvenation. Not a few successful entrepreneurs credit their creativity to times of solitude. Thomas Merton, mid-century theologian, said “Though it is true that we must know how to bear with noise, to resign oneself to a situation in which a community is constantly overwhelmed with activity, noise of machines, etc., is an abuse.” Written mid-century before cell phones, his perception was extraordinary.
discovering the spiritual discipline of silence
We discover manifold illustrations in the Bible of men and women who either by choice or constraint encountered God in times of solitude. In some cases, an “enforced” wilderness experience led to a divine encounter. God chose leading Israel through the wilderness when exiting Egypt rather than the expeditious alternative route. In the wilderness, He humbled, tested and revealed their disobedient hearts, while instructing them through Moses. (Deuteronomy 8:1-2) We read of countless prophets, like Elijah, Elisha, even John the Baptist, seeking or living in solitude to more clearly hear God. Jesus Himself, often sought solitude when speaking with His Father.
Yes, God spoke to many of His people in circumstances other than seclusion; but it is in the interior silence where God speaks most fervidly. We encounter God in times of interior silence, where we also glimpse our authentic selves, freeing us for worshipful intimacy. Cardinal Robert Sarah, in his book, “The Power of Silence”, states, “The desire to see God is what urges us to love solitude and silence, For silence is where God dwells. He drapes himself in silence. In every era, this experience of an interior life and an intimate, loving relationship with God has remained indispensable for those who seek true happiness.”
We cannot experience interior silence unless we seek comfortability in exterior silence. Culture bombards us daily with information, and life demands fuel activity, however, many of us remain uncomfortable with exterior silence. We fill the quiet with music, TV, social media or other “noise”, failing to embrace the gift of quiet stillness so necessary for our souls.
Discovering the sounds of silence
Discovering the sounds of silence involves making time for stillness and quiet. Eventually we all crave a little “peace and quiet”, but creating space for this in our distracted lives proves difficult. Additionally, we often fail to anticipate the affects of distractions on our minds. Even when we manage a time of quiet, we become restless, uncomfortable. Resulting in the premature ending of the time “to get something done.” I recommend starting slow, and keeping your initial efforts brief.
Pursue Exterior Silence First
Finding comfort in exterior silence opens the door to enjoyment of a truly quiet mind. How often I longed for interior silence of mind, thoughts and stillness before God, but my inner turmoil refused to be quieted. Due in part to my failure in accepting exterior silence. What I mean is this: though I create space for “sitting quietly”, after only a few moments I grow bored, restless, and turn to some activity for relief. If I cannot endure a brief time of external solitude, how will I train my mind in stillness? Try incorporating these few helps for creating contentment with exterior silence.
- Create space for a 10 minute stillness retreat. Pick a place without disturbances or distractions. Ensure your physical comfort, then sit. You can keep your eyes opened or closed. Let thoughts come and go, focus on your breathing, you may engage mindful breathing if you wish. Notice how the silence feels to your body. Mentally note any restlessness or boredom. Notice your thoughts, but avoid engaging with them.
- Schedule this time at least three times within the week. Journal any thoughts on what occurs to you during and after the exercise.
- Enjoy this time outdoors if possible, in your yard, on your porch or in a nearby park.
- After you feel comfortable with the 10 minutes of silence, see what external noises you notice. Your breathing, nature sounds, distant sounds, any sounds that you may not have noticed previously.
Remember, this is a time for silence and stillness. While walking or running through a quiet park or wooded area provides a form of respite, it prevents you from experiencing “stillness” for you are active. Accessing an interior level of silence requires stillness. All of the examples of Jesus withdrawing, praying and communing with His Father involve both stillness and solitude.
Move into Interior Silence
Interior silence is the noise of our minds and thoughts. The mind cannot stop thinking any more than the heart can stop beating. Our mind may engage in ceaseless thoughts, however, we can bring those thoughts into submission. By taking our thoughts captive as Paul directs in 2 Corinthians 10:5, we initiate interior silence. I counsel many people who are captives of their own thoughts rather than the other way around.
Our captive thoughts committed to Christ no longer drive us like a cruel taskmaster. Replaced with true, honest, just, pure, lovely, admirable, virtuous and praiseworthy thoughts, (Philippians 4:8) we acquire the peace of God. His peace creates the interior silence resulting in communion with Him. Experiment with the following exercises for cultivating interior peace.
- Interior silence requires an extended period of quiet and stillness; plan at least 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time. Ensure your physical comfort, engage in mindful breathing, and simply rest. For the first 10 minutes or so, notice the numerous thoughts flowing through your mind; allow them to flow through without engaging them.
- As the number of thoughts decrease, observe which ones persist. Again, avoid engagement, simply take note. Abstain from “categorizing” your thoughts as good or bad, sinful or holy.
- Relinquish your thoughts one by one to the Holy Spirit for His care. Thoughts often encompass concerns for loved ones and ourselves, responsibilities, troubles, and random meaningless thoughts. As you sit quietly, resting, remind yourself of God’s sovereignty, love and care for you and others; trust Him with the outcomes.
- As you relinquish thoughts, your mind calms, and you feel more peaceful. Rest here in God’s Presence, consenting to the gift of peaceful stillness.
Savoring the Sounds of Silence
One of the spiritual disciplines of Lent is the practice of silence. Engaging the practice varies from moving through your day with little or no talking, to dedicated times of interior silence. Practicing silence during Lent or any time, provides an avenue of reflection and opportunity for renewal in God’s Presence. We often expend so much time narrating our concerns, troubles and requests before God, there remains but a scant opportunity for listening to God. In a world bent on busyness, accomplishment and self-medicating through distractions, discovering the sounds of silence offers the life-giving gift of the Peace of God.
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