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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