My spiritual director mentioned Martin Laird's book, Into The Silent Land, multiple times before I took the hint to read it for myself. I devour books, they are nourishment for my soul. So why did this one get put off for so long? Oh, I think we all know. This book was not a book to use as a "get away" as many of my historical fiction reads, this book was to take me inward and do some deep soul work. I was faced with the reality once again, I struggle with and often purposely avoid silence.
Silence is hard. And I'm not simply talking about being quiet. We can cease to speak and our minds still be quite noisy! Can you relate? When I finally read this gem of a book, Laird gave me encouragement in the first few pages. I realized, he understood. Laird explains the focus of the book is on the struggles we face when we enter silence and "the inner chaos going on in our heads, like some wild cocktail party of which we find ourselves the embarrassed host...we are not even aware of how utterly dominating this inner noise is until we try to enter through the doorway of silence."
Oh, wow. Yes, I indeed find myself not at all present but listening loudly to all the inner noise. That's why we practice silence. It doesn't happen on accident.
Why does the inner noise get so much attention? For one, I often think we don't realize we have the power to calm that noise. For another, the world has become so noisy that we allow ourselves to follow the crowd. So why not give into the noise?
Silence is fruitful. St. Isaac the Syrian wrote, "Enter eagerly into the treasure house that is within you and you will see the things that are in heaven."
Why wouldn't we choose to enter the treasure house within? If we believe God created us and is within, why wouldn't we choose to draw nearer in the quiet?
Silence can feel lonely. Silence is not the same as being alone. And yet, it's true that when we enter into the quiet, calming those often loud inner voices, we may realize that there is less distraction to keep us company. So at first, silence can indeed feel lonely. But, my oh my, are the treasures worth it. The connection with our Creator is cultivated in the silence, that's not lonely.
God is here, you aren't actually alone in the silence. So, why do we resist? Sometimes we simply need support. I find a regular contemplative prayer practice with quiet in the morning, time on my yoga mat, being in community with other seekers, and spending time with my spiritual director and soul friends to be the greatest support. These people and practices help me find the strength and courage to quiet the inner chaos and draw closer to God.
How are you embracing silence in your life in this season?
This month in our Peace Seekers online community and in my yoga classes, we're exploring what it looks like to enter the quiet. If you struggle with the inner chaos, I invite you to join us. I also currently have limited openings for private spiritual direction both in person at Bloom Yoga Studio and online.
You need a pause.
That may sound presumptuous but the reason I write it is because well... it is especially true for me this time of year.
How about you?
You are entering the busiest time of the year, on top of your already busy life. There are meals to host, parties to attend, gifts to find, memories to share, and more. THESE ARE GOOD THINGS so please don't hear these words in the spirit of guilt or condemnation. What this means is... you're going to need a pause soon amidst the celebrations. It's okay to rest. You can not continue pouring into the world without also filling yourself up with rest and space for contemplation. Your soul needs pause. Your body needs pause. Your mind needs pause. And sometimes we need to be reminded, it's okay to rest.
Need some ideas to help make space for a pause in your daily life?
- Turn off social media alerts on your phone to ease distraction and be more present in the days to come.
- Pick one day a week where you choose to log off and avoid screen time completely, savor some silence.
- Plan time in the new year to get away (want to join me on retreat in January in Nashville? - click here) for sabbath time apart from daily life.
- Practice some quiet and slow meditative and purposeful body movement (especially after a day of turkey or ham!) by going for a mindful walk or unrolling your yoga mat for meditative movement.
- Quiet your mind and start with 5 minutes a day of Centering Prayer, let that time grow with practice.
Pauses do not happen on accident. Even Jesus took naps! I hope you will make time to pause this season - your body and your spirit will thank you!
I was reading this week in Fil Anderson’s “Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers” and he referenced Jesus regularly escaping to solitude and Paul’s time in Arabia as a sacred place where our heart is formed. He states that “it’s the place where I temper my devotion, make promises to God, and hear with my soul's ear the promises God makes to me. Arabia is where my deepest soul beliefs are forged and sustained. We need regular trips to Arabia.” I feel like I just had my own short time in Arabia and had a wonderful opportunity to experience God in silence during my trip to my first class.
The unique thing about the coursework I am pursuing is that it is in a hybrid setting. So, I am traveling back and forth each semester for intense work and then follow-up with regular assignments via the internet. I had the wonderful opportunity for this course to stay with the Sisters of The Precious Blood. The journey of traveling there alone and staying in a simple room with no distraction of television, internet or even a “to do list” was invigorating to me (and I do realize this sounds like torture to some of my friends and family (it used to to me as well). I will admit, my addiction to all things internet caused me to struggle briefly, but only briefly, as the rewards of quiet contemplation were well worth the little time spent in my simple room.
I have noticed upon my return home that my time of solitude away helped me process much more than I’ve been able to process since I’ve been home. The daily distractions of life often draw us away from God instead of to Him. My desire for ministry to God is to simply help people find ways to hear from God and find peace in their daily life. A trip to “Arabia” doesn’t have to take you to another land. You may find your “Arabia” in the backyard, a homeless shelter, a local convent or even in the simple silence of your own home. Try turning off the TV, computer, smart phone and just sit down and enjoy some time with your creator (the weather at my house is beautiful today). And, although we think that this slowing down may cause us to be delayed or unproductive (I fall prey to this too), when it is managed right, I’ve found I am much more productive for my family, my church and my community.
This draws me back to a practice that was introduced to me a few years ago at the beginning of my journey toward finding peace, Centering Prayer. It is a practice that in the beginning I was committed to regularly but then duties of life picked up again and unfortunately I let it fall by the wayside. I will be revisiting this practice in the coming weeks as I’m being drawn back to putting the disciplines to practice in my life (and it happens to be part of a class assignment too!). Maybe you could start small and give it just a few minutes of your day as well? As Thomas Keating reminds us in this video, just sit down, it doesn’t have to be perfect – God recognizes our effort and wants us to simply be in his presence.
Maybe you could take some time in “Arabia” today?
Whitney R. Simpson
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Whitney R. Simpson,
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC