Silence is Golden

Have you ever noticed how noisy our lives are? Just spend a few moments listening to the world around you. Sometimes it is enough to make you crazy. And with all of our modern technology, you can’t get away from it. No matter where you go to escape, the cell phone keeps ringing. Even in a campground there is the sound of the generator and the television set in the RV next to you.

The trouble with all this noise is that it limits our ability to listen to that inward part of ourselves from which all profound truths evolve. Listening to that inner self, and to the voice of the Holy One within is essential to our continued well-being. And so, many people seek out a silent retreat to expose themselves to an intentional quiet, a place, a time, committed to the practice of silence. Most often these silent retreats occur at monasteries or convents. Actually modern silent retreats continue a tradition that has its roots in those places. Monks and nuns in several orders take vows of silence for life. These vows are intended to lessen the amount of noise from the world so that monks and nuns have more interior space to experience the divine presence within.

Silent retreats are often held from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon but can last for a week or sometimes up to a month. They are an opportunity to get a break from small talk, from electronic devices, from words. There are often talks on spiritual topics where participants can listen in silence. And there are opportunities for daily worship with the nuns or monks in the convent or monastery. Meals are taken in silence. Sometimes someone will read from a spiritual book during the meal. There is plenty of opportunity to wander the grounds, perhaps to walk a labyrinth, even to nap. Lord knows we could all use a nap. Many of us are walking through life exhausted much of the time. There is an opportunity in the silence to become more aware of one’s surroundings, to notice things we have no time to notice in our everyday life. Our senses get a chance to come alive, to notice the smell of that flower or to see how a butterfly takes flight.

James Finley PhD, a former Trappist monk and present day clinical psychologist says that it can be hard to be silent at first when we go on retreat. When we are silent, our own mental chatter may in fact be amplified and come to the fore, so that those things we have been putting aside or ignoring might be given the attention they deserve. That can be a bit unnerving. “We sense that we mostly live in shallow water,” he says “and that there’s more to life than we’re getting.” Discovering that is not a bad thing. It may in fact lead us to a life lived in deeper waters where there is more meaning. Silent retreats are not about zoning out but about listening to our inner life and responding. Being on a silent retreat is an opportunity to receive what comes up in the silence and to learn from it.

We will be having a Silent Retreat from May 16th to 18th, 2014, at Mount Calvary Monastery in Santa Barbara. It will be led by Mo. Lyn. The theme of the weekend is Going Deeper with Prayer. Each of the presentations on the retreat will include instructions on a different form of prayer. Participants then will have time on their own to try out each of these prayer practices to find one that “fits”. A signup sheet will be available. Speak with Lyla Merrell if you are interested.

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