Day 6 — Silence
Simon and Garfunkel may think silence is golden, but I think it’s pert near impossible to practice! THIS is honestly what represents SILENCE to me.
I think the only place one can find silence (ok, the only place I could find silence) is in deep space. “Huh?” you say. Not to go all sciencey on you or anything, but in order for sound to travel, there has to be something with molecules for it to travel through. On Earth, sound travels to your ears by vibrating air molecules. In deep space there is no air. In the large empty areas between stars and planets, there are no molecules to vibrate. There is no sound there.
Probably the closest we could come to silence on earth would be a person who is hearing impaired. For the rest of us, there is so much background noise that even if we’re trying to be silent we’re kind of engulfed in a cacophony of static. Now that’s just my opinion, and I know lots of folks who are good at meditation would disagree with me. But I’m with the poets on this one.
When I am silent,
I have thunder
But I’m not a stranger to trying to be silent. The women from our church used to hold a three-day retreat at Our Lady of the Mountains Retreat House every year. Those of you who’ve read my blog for awhile know it was one of my most favorite places in the world. The second year we were there we introduced the observance of Compline (Night Prayer, Prayers at the End of the Day). Compline is the final church service of the day in the Christian tradition of canonical hours. The English word Compline is derived from the Latin completorium, as Compline is the completion of the working day. And if you’re in retreat, it is carried out in silence.
The way it worked was, after all of our weekend activities concluded at 9:00 on Saturday night, we were given a written assignment to work on, something to help us reflect on where we were in our faith journey. So from 9:00 on, the retreat was conducted in silence. The 27 gals could work on their assignment anywhere they wanted in the building — the commons room, the dining room, the chapel, their own rooms — but they were not allowed to speak to one another until the worship service at 10:00 Sunday morning. Even breakfast was conducted in silence. (Needless to say there was a lot of poking and pointing going on. 😀 )
The first year was SOOO hard. One incident in particular still makes me smile. My friend Linda was in a bathroom drying her hair before breakfast when the bell rang to come to the dining room. Suddenly Mary Ann came rushing into the bathroom making all kinds of weird gestures with her hands. She knew Linda hadn’t heard the bell over the blow dryer. Mary Ann was pointing to her ears, the bell on the ceiling, down the hall toward the dining room… Linda thought she was having a fit! It wasn’t until Mary Ann grabbed her and pointed to her mouth that Linda got it. 😀 It was one of those happenings that became “legend” at the retreats.
We found out something very important that first year during that time of silence. If you really want to understand each other without words, you had to learn to listen with ALL your senses. It really made me think about praying, about whether when I pray I give my Creator my full attention. I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t. I’m too aware of all the background noise around me. And maybe when the Creator seems silent in my life it’s because I’m not listening with all of me. So, no matter how fruitless it seems to me, silence, or as much of it as I can manage, is important to at least practice on my faith journey because…
He who does not understand your silence
will probably not understand your words.
I figure I have a lot of practicing to do…