Monday, March 23, 2009

Quiet and silence

So the kids survived their media fast. In fact, they happily reported that it wasn't "so bad" and that, in fact, they might do it again some time. I wondered what they liked about it. They read, the house was quiet, they didn't feel pressure to check up on friends, they were proud of themselves for sticking to it. All good stuff. At the meeting where they gathered with their other media fasting friends, the pastor asked if the kids had spent more time in prayer or reading the Bible. My kids told me, "I wished he'd have mentioned that we could be doing THAT while fasting. He never told us that BEFOREhand." Ah well. I majored on what they did experience and told them their pastor is still growing in his leading skills too.

This morning, a friend sent me a couple of quotes that I had supposedly sent her years ago. I mean, I'm sure I did. It's just that I don't remember either of them and clearly didn't learn a thing from them on the first pass. Let me post them first:
Unfortunately, in seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self. It is a harrowing journey, a death to self—the false self—and no one wants to die. But it is the only path to life, to freedom, to peace, to true love. And it begins with silence. We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves. This is the great value of silence. It is the pathway to all we truly want.

--M. Basil Pennington

Silence is the measure of the power to act; that is, a person never has more power to act than he has silence. Anyone can understand that to do something is far greater than to talk about doing it. If, therefore, a person has a plan or idea and is fully resolved to carry it out, he does not need to talk about it. What he talks about in connection with the proposed action is what he is most unsure of and most unwilling to do.

--Soren Kierkegaard
I've spent time being quiet. My kids were quiet last week. I know how to turn down the sound. In fact, for years I called my Bible reading and prayer hour, a "quiet time."

I remember naps with little kids. My whole "ragged, on-the-edge" goal by 2 p.m. - get kids into beds and knocked out. I'd be unraveling so fast by that hour, that all I could do was hurl myself onto the floor of the bedroom that had three, four, and finally five kids stuffed into it, letting the current baby nurse while a soft lullaby tape played, hoping the bouncing, questions, tossing and turning would finally collapse into gentle little one snores. I'd extricate myself from the suctioned baby, careful not to disturb a single muscle, and walk into the other room, sighing deeply. Quiet had descended on the apartment. I could draw breath. For a moment.

Silence, though, seems to be another whole level. Silence is not just being quiet, but being with self, alone. Being confronted with hypocrisy? Oh sign me up! Really much easier to be busy and noisy than that. I love that nearly last line of the Basil quote though: "We cannot give ourselves in love if we do not know and possess ourselves." That seems to be the key to living a rich life, doesn't it?

I'm realizing quiet is not silence. Silence is shutting down communication that distracts me from being with mySelf. I want to cultivate a little silence in my life (probably have to start in small doses - I'm pretty addicted to "noise"). What do you do? Anyone practice silence as a discipline?


Susanne Barrett said...

I have found Centering Prayer to be invaluable in practicing the discipline of silence. You can start out very slow (five minutes) and work your way up to two twenty-minute sessions per day.

You set a *quiet* timer (one that won't make you jump out of your skin when it goes off) and sit in a position most comfortable for you. It can be a yoga pose, in a chair, on the floor, wherever. I think most teachers of this type of prayer recomment sitting on the floor, your legs crossed and tucked under in front of you (the way we used to sit in Kindergarten), back straight, and with palms held loosely open on knees. You choose a "centering word" like "peace" or "joy" or "love" or "Jesus" -- whatever matters most to you. You focus on this word as you slowly inhale and exhale, saying this word in your mind with each breath. If you find your mind wandering, just return back to your centering word. It's a skill that gets easier with practice. You can Google "centering prayer" and get a more clear explanation, but it's really a wonderful way to slowly introduce not just physical silence but spiritual silence as well.

I love silence. I crave it. I usually greet silence with a pen in my hand and write in my journal. Or I read in silence. Or I just sit with my thoughts. It's best if you can do it outside of the house where you have no distractions.

jo(e) said...

The kind of meditation that I practice is what some Christian theologians call "Centering Prayer." (I don't like that name actually -- I think of praying as talking to God and meditation as listening.)

Anyhow, Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating have both written about Centering Prayer, but I really like the book Cynthia Bourgeault wrote about it: "Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening."

It's a "surrender" meditation technique. If you catch yourself thinking, you let the thought go. It's a practice in letting go and allowing the silence.

The older I get, the more I value silence ....

julieunplugged said...

Wow - you both went straight to centering prayer! I'm going to try it. Thank you Susanne and Joe. You are both models of meditation to me already so it makes perfect sense you'd be resources I could turn to. Thanks.

SUSAN said...

I hope to go to a centering prayer weekend later this Spring. I have a friend who absolutely loves it and thinks I would too.