“Physically sitting down and being still is the most practical way of becoming present to who and where we are.” (David Runcorn in The Language of Tears, p.63)
In a conversation at the dinner table with friends and family, the topic of silence emerged. Is silence about avoidance or is it about allowing space for deeper questions to emerge and be engaged with?
I can’t remember the exact quote, but in her book The Art of Lent Sister Wendy Beckett, who is well acquainted with the practice of silence and solitude, mentions something about how, in a very busy world, silence can give us back the gift of time. If you decide to be silent for even just ten minutes, and give yourself nothing else to do in that time (it’s only ten minutes after all), the time may appear to pass more slowly. Which, if you’re inclined to rush, can turn out to be a joy. My experience is that, if you practise it enough, this turns out to be a gift; a kind of restfulness that perhaps we could all use from time to time, at least?
In the past I have used the beautiful Spiegel im Spiegel (“Mirror in the mirror”) by the Estonian monk and composer Arvo Pärt to encourage people to engage with this. The music lasts less than ten minutes, but very little really happens in it. The way it works means that you can end up spending the whole time trying to guess when the music will end. But when I’ve used it to aid stillness and meditation, I have encouraged people to rest in the knowledge that this will be only 10 minutes of their time, and just to be present with whatever their current reality is. I’m so used to using this music for meditation that when to my delight it came on in Alexa’s “classical yoga” playlist that my sister in law enjoys, I slipped into stillness straight away.
I particularly like the honesty and vulnerability of Daniel Hope’s recording, which you can hear here:
Once a month, we share quiet days at our home with people wanting to engage with silence for a half or a whole day. This practice helps me to rediscover gentleness, hope, creativity and also to find that often I have more choices before me than I thought.
As I write this, the Christian community that I belong to, “Contemplative Fire”, are finishing up their annual community weekend. I have been praying for love, grace and joy to emerge among them. If you want to find out more visit our website (or search for us on Facebook):
If there’s one thing that I want to do on my travels, it is to be truly present wherever I am, so I don’t miss the gift of each moment. So this morning I am practising being still. Stillness can be like a cup of cold water on a very hot day.