Welp, as promised in last week’s post, I’ve sought to practice the spiritual discipline of silence this week…again.
While I had a good dose of resolve heading into this week, practicing silence was much more difficult than I had anticipated. And honestly, more times than not, I ran from it again and again; this tendency in me was quite confusing. I had a long week of school, filled with class lectures and studying and driving and conversations. Shouldn’t I be craving silence in the midst of all the noise? I thought so.
But on Thursday afternoon, I decided I would try one of Adele Calhoun’s suggested activities for practicing silence: setting a timer for just ten minutes and allowing the self to be present in the silence (Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, pg. 123). I thought this would be easy enough, so after putting my phone on ‘do not disturb mode,’ I set my iPhone timer for exactly 10:00. Then I was silent. I was even a good girl and turned off my ambient-noise-providing room fan.
First, I sat in my comfy reading chair. I moved my legs back and forth, thinking about what I should be thinking about. Then I picked up one of my teddy bears (yes, more than one reside with me), and I admired how soft and comfy he was to hold. Then I got up from my chair and started pacing. To be honest, I even checked my timer again to see how long I had to wait in the silence. Then I paced again until the timer sounded. Silence over. I was disappointed with my lack of being present. Couldn’t I be simply present?
I’ve been living off a diet of noise for so long that craving silence just doesn’t happen very often for me. Apparently when I am drawn towards introversion, I prefer noisy solitude (seems like an oxymoron, huh?). I like my noise. I like to set up the false dichotomy that noise and activity mean significance, while silence means insignificance. When I’m alone in my room, instead of being present, I think about what other things I could be participating in. Perhaps I could be studying or having a thoughtful conversation with a friend or watching “When Calls the Heart” (new fave Netflix show thanks to my friend, Jami), or taking a nap or listening to an audiobook. Even when I’m doing something that isn’t productive already, silence seems even more unproductive than that. However, I sense that something’s wrong with my diet. Even though silence is not yet ‘mouth-watering’ to me, I want to want to want silence.
I have a growing suspicion that silence is much more productive than I’d like to think, that distraction is just what the enemy of my soul would want me to live in (a sentiment I read this past week in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters).
I long to taste the fruit Calhoun writes about:
- “being attentive to the voice of Jesus
- having freedom from negative habits of speech (deception, gossip, impulsive chatter, small talk, impression management, the need to express your opinion or critique)
- freedom from addictions to noise or sound (radio, TV, phone, iPod, etc.)
- receiving quiet from the chaos and the noise in your life
- having deeper intimacy with God
- growing in self-awareness as the silence invites the subconscious to move into deeper levels of knowing
- developing increased listening skills”
As I sit with these past two weeks of ‘practicing’ silence, I pray that my appetite increases for moments when I can simply rest in the silence. The lyrics to Will Reagan’s song “In the Quiet” have been circulating in my mind, reminding me that even when I’m afraid of silence being a void, God is there.