Bella and the Practice of Silence

Bella tried doing silence on her own…and miserably failed a number of times. But she was determined. You can’t be a contemplative if you don’t practice silence. You can’t be a contemplative spiritual director and “sell” others on silence if you aren’t practicing it yourself. These were the basic reasons Bella scoped out a contemplative community to practice silence with.

For twenty minutes early in the morning, Bella entered the Peace Chapel and along with a number of men and women, sat in silence. It wasn’t many weeks before the initial reasons for finding a way to practice silence fell away and made room for the deep work of God in Bella’s life. God wanted her to sit in his love, just be still and rest in Him, just be. Practicing this brought the experience of truths she had long read and believed in. Grace. Peace that passes understanding. Letting it be. Breaking false responsibility and compulsive action. Consenting to the Spirit doing the work and opening up to His surprising ways. Acceptance of life as it is. Twenty minutes of silence each morning. Wow.

From the Book:

It is difficult to find silence in an age of technology and information. Silence challenges our cultural addiction to amusement, words, music, advertising, noise, alarms and voices. Silence asks for patience and waiting. And both silence and waiting make us uncomfortable. They seem so unproductive. We can’t tell if we are doing anything in them. So, when we come upon silence, we fill it. We cram it with something else we can learn or do or achieve.

We break the silence of travel with an iPod, Pandora or cell phone; the silence of the evening hours with the TV or computer; the silence of sleep with an alarm clock. Every part of our life is inundated with words – urgent words, random words, trivial words, hurtful words. Words with friends, managing words, religious words and on and on. In the midst of so many words it becomes difficult to know which messages are really important and which ones we need to remember. To get through the flood of words we develop skills like skimming and scanning. We look for bullet points and bold print. We ask for summaries. We urge people to be brief and cut to the chase. And when we think they aren’t saying anything significant we simply block out their words to attend to our internal flood of words.

As you quietly offer your body you can hone your listening reflexes. There is nothing you need to do here. This is not a time to come up with strategies for fixing your life. Silence is a time to rest in God. Lean into God, trusting that being with him in silence will loosen your rootedness in the world and plant you by streams of living waters. It can form your life even it if doesn’t solve your life. The anonymous author of The Way of the Pilgrim wrote, “I need peace and silence to give free play to the quickening flame of prayer.” Let the silence lead you to prayer.

Exercise from Book:

If silence is new for you, begin with ten minutes. Setting a timer can help a novice who keeps watching the clock. The timer lets you forget the time and settle into the quiet. Intentionally place yourself in the presence of God and become quiet. As you become quiet what do you hear – voices, traffic, your breath, wind, your heart, distracting thoughts? Let the noise go. Continue to let the quiet deepen. Be with God. Choose a holy word such as “peace” or “Jesus” or anything other word that you want. When thoughts come rushing in, don’t judge them or try to get rid of them. Just notice them and let them gently go and return to your word. You will have to do this repeatedly. This is how silence gets worked in you. You are not going to see the benefit while you practice silence; it will the fruit of your life after the silence.

For help/teaching/resources on silence, centering prayer, opportunities to join with others or take a course, etc. go to:

Photo by Nick Fewings - Unsplash

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