“Just be quiet.”
That’s what I want to say to the world at times. It’s a noisy place out here. Dings and voices and music and words, words, words.
And thoughts. My brain is never mute. My mind races on and on.
So I sign up for another weekend of silence.
I walk into the monastery on a cold February night. The sisters here respect our silence. They quietly prepare our meals, arrange our bedding for the weekend, make space for us to wander their grounds.
But silence is one thing. And solitude is another.
We can be quiet in the middle of a crowd. And we can be noisy when we’re all alone.
In simple definitions:
Silence is not making noise.
Solitude is being alone because you want to be.
On this weekend, I want to welcome both.
But it’s not easy. For these two nights, solitude means I drive away from home to sleep in a room alone, eat my meals alone, walk the trails alone.
And silence requires even more sacrifice. It means more than not having a conversation with a neighbor. It also means:
- Not opening the book I want to read
- Not tuning in to the podcast I want to hear
- Not texting or tweeting or turning on the TV
Alone. And quiet.
Yet not lonely. Nor deaf.
Activitist and contemplative Phileena Heuertz says,
“Practicing silence helps us develop the ability to listen and discern God’s voice and leading. In solitude, we learn to be present.”
So as I turn off the noise, I tune into God. His still, small voice is amplified in the silence and solitude. His presence is thick. His love is encircling.
I listen more closely. I look up more often. I breathe in more deeply.
And then I drive home.
And I wonder how to maintain the silence and solitude out here.
It requires no monastery. I realize this.
But to find a time and place to quiet my thoughts and be alone with God, even if only a few minutes each day, requires some sacrifice, some intention, some motivation.
To listen more keenly and give God more of my full attention, I must . . .
- close a door more often,
- turn off my phone,
- and say “no” to doing other things.
I’ve committed during Lent to more purposely pursue silence and solitude. It means fasting a little more—of time, of thoughts, of activity.
But fasting from noise to feast on God is a practice worth pursuing.
* * *
For locals, Phileena Heuertz of Gravity is leading the annual Contemplative Outreach Conference on March 5 in Huntsville, Alabama. Topic: Awakening to Transformation Through Solitude, Silence, and Stillness.
Thanks to Linda and Maggie who led our Centering Prayer retreat and provided guided conversation during our group sessions (it wasn’t a 100% silent weekend).
Which is harder for you: to be silent or to be alone? Please share in the comments.
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