We live in a very busy and noisy world of myriad distraction, all the time and everywhere. “Hey, I just saw three commercials as I passed that billboard over there” – not to mention the seven commercials you are forced-fed after every seven minutes viewing your favorite TV program.So, what’s a spiritual pilgrim to do in such a world? How do we to keep grounded, focused on what is truly important, connected to the vital sources of life (God, family, community) that refresh the soul, cultivate the spirit, and yes, even transform our lives?
Enter silence. This is not a stage prompt but rather a directive and discipline that lives at the heart of the Christian tradition, and many other spiritual traditions as well. We see it clearly in the example of Jesus who frequently sought his Father in silence and solitude.
Robert Wicks, in his book Everyday Simplicity speaks of the difficulty of eking out even a sliver of time for silence in our busy lives, but also of its necessity in cultivating the spiritual life.
“Silence never comes instantly. We are trained to be distracted (“Hey, I just saw….”), our days are filled with thinking, telephoning, texting, emailing, entertaining, accomplishing, and doing, doing, and more doing. When we stop (if we stop), the roar takes time to quiet down. Sometimes the noise settles into one theme (a confrontation or problem we have to deal with later in the day) that we need to hand over to God. Other times, the noise lessens and we are allowed to just sit warmed by the light of God. These are moments of divine intimacy. It is at these moments that we cease listening for the words of God and allow the silence to somehow teach, comfort, and console us. The silence itself becomes the voice of God in some strange way.”
Mr. Wicks also offers some practical suggestions, beyond our myriad excuses for not seeking silence (we all have them and know them) which he admits are “understandable, endless, but are still, well, excuses.”
- Find a quiet place in the morning and/or evening where you can retreat for a little silence and solitude. If necessary get up a tad earlier or stay up a tad later than others in the home.
- Light a candle before a little icon to help you be more intentional about God’s presence in your life.
- If it helps you to focus, read a little scripture or a few pages of spiritual reading. Don’t read for analysis but simply allow it to “sit” with you as a companion or close friend, content and silent.
- Be patient, especially when nothing seems to be happening. If distracted, repeating a certain word (love, Lord, gentleness, etc.) can settle the soul.
- If your quiet time seems like just another thing to do, another duty, reframe it. “Silence and solitude is a time and a place to relax and rest in God’s arms. It is a time to love and to be loved. Even if one doesn’t feel this love, the idea of love should be held in mind until it falls into the heart.”
Biblically speaking, seven is a perfect number. Seven commercials between each seven minutes of my favorite TV show – perfectly annoying! Seven minutes of silence wrapped in love and gratitude at the beginning, middle, or end of my day – heavenly.
I apologize but I forgot that this is supposed to be a 10 minute spiritual break. OK then, seven minutes of solitude; and the remaining three minutes? Have a cookie. You deserve it.