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­­­­How I Shut My Mouth and Found My Soul

photo: Billy Rowlinson on flickr

photo: Billy Rowlinson on flickr

What’s your relationship to silence?

Do you embrace it? Do you shun it?

Do you fill your life with sound – people, television, radio – in order to avoid it?

Personally, I love to be quiet. I love spending time in the silence, touching base with myself – my mind, my body, my soul.

Except when I don’t.

In spite of my professed love of silence, I don’t make time to really delve into silence. I don’t often spend long periods of time in the quiet.

I like my silence short and sweet – a half-hour meditation, a few hours by myself reading.

photo: Jayel Aheram on flickr

photo: Jayel Aheram on flickr

Longer periods of silence intrigue and frighten me.

And so I was pleasantly surprised – and a little bit scared – when I found out that the last retreat of my ministerial school studies was a silent retreat.

A silent meditation retreat at that.

Although I’ve been meditating twice a day for almost thirty years, I rarely meditate for longer than a half hour. I’ve always been fascinated by meditation retreats – sitting for days on end, grappling with itchy noses and deep psycho-spiritual issues.

This recent retreat was lightweight, by any standard. A short weekend in silence and meditation.

But still.

My biggest concern was that I was there with Melissa, and we have a really hard time not talking.

We took forever to find each other, we’re still making up for lost time.

Would we be able to be together and not chat freely? Were we up for the challenge?

photo: Karen Fry

photo: Karen Fry

The meditation sessions at our retreat were anywhere from twenty minutes to one hour. Because I’ve been meditating for years, I was able to sit comfortably for that amount of time.

It probably would have been difficult for me to sit still for hours on end, but that’s not what we did.

What was most incredible to me, however, was the silence.

We gathered as a group in silence. We meditated in silence. We took our breaks in silence. We ate in silence.

And Melissa and I hung out together in silence.

It was amazing.

I thought I would feel cut off from Melissa and my fellow students. But I didn’t.

If anything, I felt closer to them.

photo: Geri Carder

photo: Geri Carder

The silence allowed this Thing to come forward. A Thing that’s there all the time, but often gets buried in noise and language.

We have words for this Thing. Words like the Divine. Or Love. Or God.

But any word pales in comparison to the felt experience of the big, vast, sweet energy that held and contained us.

At the end of the retreat, we had a chance to share – with words – about our experience. I was the only student who didn’t share at length.

I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t want to leave the silence.

But one of my fellow students, Karen Linsley, gave words to what I had felt.

She said she was worried she would feel isolated from the rest of the group by the silence, but that didn’t happen. She talked about how close she felt to everyone. She talked about the love she felt.

Other people talked about how everyone looked younger. And lighter. And more open.

photo: Ruth Barnhart

photo: Ruth Barnhart

As everyone shared, I realized we’d all been touched the Divine.

I know intellectually that we’re made of Spirit. I understand that there’s one Energy in and through all things, including me.

I have moments of feeling this clearly and strongly, and I have moments when I forget.

But that retreat was a powerful demonstration that the Divine is always there.

All we have to do is shut our mouths and sit for a while, and this big, beautiful energy rises up in and around us.

It’s there even when we’re talking, of course, but It can be so easily obscured by the human mind. Closing our mouths helps the mind slow down a little.

Sitting in the silence allows our awareness of the Divine to bloom and blossom.

photo: vaticanus on flickr

photo: vaticanus on flickr

Did I immediately go out and sign up for a ten-day meditation retreat?

No, but I  still might.

And I’m inspired by the felt awareness that the Divine is always there.

Silence isn’t the only way to remember this, of course. There’s music. And time in nature. And laughter with friends. It’s all Divine.

But there’s something particularly loud and clear about the presence of Spirit in silence.

I have a clearer awareness of this now.

And all it took was a willingness to shut my mouth.

“Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation.” – Rumi

photo: Thomas Leuthard on flickr

photo: Thomas Leuthard on flickr

What’s your relationship with silence? How does it connect you with the Divine? Share your comments below!

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15 Responses to ­­­­How I Shut My Mouth and Found My Soul

  1. Lori Louise Lawrence June 4, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    Once I took myself for a three-day silent retreat by reserving a room at the Angela Center. My intention was to sit, to write, to draw mandalas, to reflect. I didn’t make it the whole three days, using the excuse of someone else’s perceived “potential” emergency to end my retreat after a day and a half.

    In retrospect, I think it would have gone better, except I didn’t follow through on the planned structure of my days, I didn’t take the right food with me, and I think I would do better, at least a first time, to have an imposed structure — someone else’s plan — in order to really get the benefits of silence.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds incredible, and your pictures are so joyful!

    Lori Louise

    • Z Egloff June 4, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      Hi Lori Louise!

      Yes, I think that my example was made easier by the fact that I wasn’t the one enforcing the rules of silence. Plus there were others around me all doing the same thing, which helped a lot. I suspect it would be a lot harder to do by myself, though I’ll have to give it a try at some point and see. The other benefit of doing it with others, as I seem to keep saying in these comments, was that there was the amplified power of the group intention and the group energy. “Where two or more are gathered in My name. . .” Something about the communal power really made the experience that much more impactful.

      Great to see you here, as always! :)


  2. Diane June 4, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    good Morning
    really enjoy all of your pictures. I participated in a day of silence retreat and it was ok. I am at a place now that I would enjoy more. Thanks for all of your amazing uplifting info!

    • Z Egloff June 4, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      Hi Diane,

      Glad you enjoyed the pictures. Including pictures in the blog was a strong part of the original vision, and I’m grateful to all the flickr photographers who are willing to share their work for free in exchange for inclusion of the photographer’s name and a link to their photo on flickr.

      I would definitely recommend giving silence another try – especially with others. There’s something particularly powerful about being with others in silence.


  3. sherry vierra June 4, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    In reading your post I felt like I knew your experience, just recalling my own days of silence reminds of the REAL, the THING that is behind the noise and business of our life.

    I was involved in a group called: “Prayer and Life Workshop” as a Catholic. As a facilitator of the workshop I participated in a mandatory, “dessert day,” once a month. This was a day of fasting and prayer we would spend in nature, sometimes even in the rain. If it stormed we gathered inside a church or retreat center. It was the best day of the month! Life seemed to animate in a whole new way, almost surreal. I recalled the words to a song on one of these days: “I’ve looked at life from both sides now but still somehow it’s life’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know life at all. In the silence, I felt like I Knew Life!

    We started early and sometimes broke up as early as noon. We would share our sack lunch, our experience and a prayer and return home…renewed, empowered and feeling very ALIVE!

    I have taken a few dessert days on my own since then, but like exercise it seems hard to keep to the commitment. Perhaps it is time to start a dessert day with a group? Something to think about.

    Love your blogs! Is that what this is? Love you too. Sherry Vierra

    • Z Egloff June 4, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      Hi Sherry,

      The “dessert days” sound delicious. The experience you describe is very similar to what I experienced at the recent retreat. There’s something extraordinarily powerful about sitting in silence with others. For whatever reason, it seems to amplify that Thing that we’re all made of. What a gift to be able to experience that.

      Great to see you here! Love to you,


  4. Steve June 4, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    It seems your exploration of silence is resonating with the universe. See Today’s “Dear Abby” in the local paper. I find even a little silence, the moment before the start of a service or event, walking from one thing to another, or just walking, the spaces in music between one note and the next. They’re all chances to experience the joy of just being. Thank You!

    • Z Egloff June 4, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      Hi Steve,

      Good to know that even Abby appreciates a little silence every now and then! 😉

      Thank you for the reminder that silence can be found everywhere, even in little drops, here and there. We can tap into that space and place any time.



  5. Tanya June 4, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    I did a three-day silent guided meditation (a kind of chinese zazen) while I was in college, with my class (it was a graduate course on translating traditional classical chinese poetry). I am not religious at all, or even very spiritual, but I loved the retreat so much that at first, it actually kind of scared me, how much I loved it. I could see myself doing it all the time — joining a nunnery or something and dropping out of life in a way. It helped me with my classwork, made me so much closer to my fellow students, and meant so much — I realized that it’s not dropping out of life at all. I really want to go back to do another, but they are always scheduled completely inconveniently for folks who work full time in an office.

    Not sure if you ever read any Stephen King, but in one of his books (The Stand), one of the characters talks about what it feels like to be alone and in total and complete silence — and how being in this silence opens you up to a wholly different world. Interesting.

    • Z Egloff June 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

      Hi Tanya,

      Your retreat sounds not unlike mine. It’s kinda trippy what happens when you just hang out with some other folks in silence. I like that you say that you’re not even necessarily a “spiritual” person. There’s just that amazing thing that can happen when we step into that silent space, however we want to define it. Does it even matter than we define it? Probably not.

      I haven’t read The Stand, but the phenomenon of opening to another world echoes my experience. Groovy and trippy and strange.

      Thank you for your story! :)


  6. Karen June 5, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    I have such fond memories of a Kriya yoga meditation group I attended on Sunday evenings for years in Ashland, Oregon, and also the Kriya yoga retreats that were held once a year for longer meditation at a local hotel.

    Whether it’s a little or a lot, silence is rejuvenating at the least for most folks and transformative for many. I meditate at the beginning and end of each day, and if I start to “slip” a little with my practice, I notice it.

    It’s wonderful how so many traditions embrace silence. One of the most interesting I encountered many years ago as a born-again Christian was a “waiting” that an area minister would hold periodically. People would fill his church on a Saturday morning, kneel all around the sanctuary (or sit if they couldn’t kneel), and then they would simply wait in silence for God to do something. They would wait in silence for hours, and people would feel “touched,” healed, and rejuvenated.

    Reminds me of the song, “Silence is golden…golden…”

    • Z Egloff June 6, 2013 at 11:42 am #

      Hi Karen,

      I, like you, meditate at the beginning and the end of the day, and I really notice the effect when I miss a session. It’s such a great way to recharge.

      I love this description of the “waiting” practice. Wow. The power of that many people gathered together with the intention of being open to messages from the Divine is wonderful. It truly is a golden experience. :)


  7. Barbara June 5, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Really related to your not wanting to leave the silence as it is so rich, vibrant and alive. Great pictures!

    About 25 years ago I did a 3 day silent retreat in the wilderness. It was wonderfully done with a cultural anthropologist who provided us rituals before and after we went into the woods in silence. I learned how relentless mother nature is and how much I needed to be in silence with Spirit and listen!


    • Z Egloff June 6, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      Hi Barbara,

      Great to see you here!

      Your 3 day retreat sounds wonderful. Adding the power of nature to the intention to be in silence sounds like a potent combination. And Nature is often quite noisy!



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