The spiritual practice of silence is easy enough to define: You find a place where there is no noise, no talking, no sound at all; just you and God. The idea is that all of your thoughts and concentration are upon His glorious presence. What do you do next?
Nothing, nothing at all.
At this point, the research indicates more than one approach: some say that you pray, others say that you meditate, still others say that you try to see God in your mind… and still others say that you clear your mind entirely and just sit in silence thinking nothing at all. If I’m honest with you, I’d have to say that this doesn’t work too well for me because when I try to clear my mind like that, then my mind is full of clearing itself, which isn’t really all that clear. What I find useful sometimes is to pray first, and then to remain in silence while I await an answer, which often comes.
Strictly speaking, is that the real method of the Classical Spiritual Discipline of Silence?
That answer depends entirely upon who you ask.
Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog, then you surely know that I’m no stickler for tradition, and I’m not all that “classical” in my approach to things. In my view, and please feel free to disagree, I think that a number of spiritual practices are best when combined together, as I did with my example of prayer followed by silence. Come to think of it, prayer, solitude and meditation all require silence… as does study as we’ve described it. And doesn’t silence also require solitude?
OK, now you can see why I’m not such a stickler for details of this sort.
I think silence is a wonderful thing, if for no other reason that the 21st century is so loud. We are always surrounded by noise from traffic, from other people, from televisions, radios, stereos, headphones, telephones, notification sounds from electronics… We know that God is still there in all of our noise, but He is so much easier to discern in silence.
Then of course, there is the noise of our own thoughts; I have things to do, where are my keys, bills are almost due, the car is making a funny noise, I think I forgot something at the store… next time I see so and so I’m giving him a piece of my mind, I’m going to tell him…
Oh yes, silence is a wonderful thing, you see silence is very much about being silent, for how else can we hear God?
I’d really be curious to hear what you think about this one…