We have a lot of silence in any stretch of 24 hours. After all, we sleep in silence which accounts for 6-8 hours. It’s the rest of the day that’s a challenge. We battle two types of noise when we’re awake:
- outer noise (either physical, i.e. sounds or digital, i.e. technology-related)
- inner noise (the inability to focus and think deeply)
I’ve been experimenting over the past few months with ways to make silence more manageable. I confess that I occasionally find silence difficult. This is coming from an introvert who enjoys time alone. It’s still hard for me.
Silence is something that I want to be more comfortable with. My sense is that it’s good for me and as I prepared for this post, I found that I was not alone.
- Thomas a Kempis said, “In silence and quiet the devout soul advances in virtue and learns the hidden truths of Scripture”.
- St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “Silence is necessary, and even absolutely necessary. If silence is lacking, then grace is lacking”.
I suspect that the rise of technology is a keen contributor to our struggle with technology. In a spare moment, it’s become muscle-memory to grab out phones and do… whatever. We just feel as if we should be checking. Email, Twitter, Social Media, new wallpaper downloads, clearance sales, anything at all.
And that makes silence all the more difficult. After all, it can’t hold a candle to the exciting lure of how many likes yesterday’s Instagram post garnered.
But, and here’s the key- what if silence could measure up? What if it were actually more valuable to our spiritual lives than anything that could possibly be on our phones?
Two Silence Experiments
To better handle my own struggle with silence, I've been trying two experiments. First, I’ve been practicing a Digital Sabbath once a week. Usually on a Sunday, I will try to avoid using my phone or computer. You could call it “old school Sunday” as we break out the books with real paper and spend more time outdoors. It feels somehow nostalgic and … right. It seems to have put my week in perspective nad made a difference. While in the first few months I dreaded the Digital Sabbath, I now look forward to it.
A second experiment has dealt with spontaneity. Whenever I’m driving somewhere and feel the slightest urge to pray or be quiet, I turn off the radio or podcast. I let the silence fill the car and flood my mind. I figure that this is either (simply) a good way to include more silence in my day or (and more importantly) a nudge from God to shut up and be quiet. Both are good.
These two experiments with silence are making a difference in my prayer life. When I have my morning quiet time, close my eyes and be still, the silence is a little easier. Because I’m “doing the work” during the week, the prayer muscle of my heart is more toned and able to receive the silence God provides. As St. Teresa of Calcutta famously said, "God is the friend of silence."
When it comes to silence, what works for you?
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