Silence as a Doable Practice (Silence III)
As we think about silence and solitude, let me ask you now to banish from your mind any images of monks dressed in brown robes sitting quietly in the desert all day. That and any other image about which you think, “Well, I can’t do that.” If you are extroverted, let me ask you to step out of any internal “I’m not good at this” conversation. The end goal of pursuing a Slow Life through silence is not forming rules such as “I will sit in complete quiet for thirty minutes a day.” Rather, the goal is to find the places of silence where you consistently hear and are changed by the voice of God. This conversation is not about “have-tos” or “shoulds,” which never get us very far anyway. It’s not about rules. It’s about discovering and embracing the ways that silence makes us aware of who God really is, which is what transforms us, and engaging silence in a daily and weekly liturgy that keeps us grounded in God.
At the same time, a Slow Life grounded in silence will mean an intentional commitment to create spaces of solitude and silence, for moments or minutes each day. Indeed, it may mean sitting in complete quiet for half an hour. But the conversation can never be reduced to a formula. A good conversation over a friend with coffee—and perhaps a long, quiet walk afterward—can be used by the Holy Spirit just as deeply as a quiet half-hour at the top of the morning. Silence may come in the pauses in conversation with a loving and kind friend who speaks God’s truth into your soul. We are seeking any sort of silence in which the Spirit speaks. At the same time, we must intentionally develop the ability to find silence that transforms us in the liturgies of our lives. Through such practice, we become more and more aware of God with us, empowering us to live in love for others. Without such spaces, it is quite difficult for us to grow in our awareness.
The point is that we do not have to be monks on a five-day silent retreat to train our souls to recognize the whisper of God’s Spirit. At the same time—and with all the dedication of a monk—we need to be willing to go to great lengths to find and create spaces of silence, including times of intentional solitude. Anyone, introvert or extrovert, busy or with time on their hands, can do this.
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