Monastery Reflection #1: Silence

Two weeks ago I had the fortune of spending three days at Mount Saviour Monastery.  Along with the monastery, these Benedictine monks, who devote most of their lives to silence, run a fully working farm where they raise sheep as well as tend their bee hives for making honey.  I never got to see their bees, although I could hear them, but I did spend a lot of time around the sheep. Actually, they are inescapable. If you can't see them, you can certainly hear them. Here is a sample of the scenery, from one of my favorite sitting spots:


It's a very serene view isn't it? It was very quiet. All I could hear were the sheep calling to each other, the wind dancing in the grass, or the occasional bug flying too close to my ear.

I like quiet. Always have.

Day one was pure bliss. The morning of day two was amazing. However, by that evening, the quiet was getting louder.  No, there weren't any new noises. Rather, the quiet was growing heavy and was no longer in the background but it was now in my face, all the time. It was inescapable. What a surprise! In his book, To Know as We Are Known, Parker Palmer writes of silence, "We need to abandon the notion that 'nothing is happening' when it is silent, to see how much new clarity a silence often brings." That seems like a nice sentiment, until that "new clarity" doesn't feel so nice.

How do you experience silence?
Is it good for you?
What do you experience in silence?

I still love it, but I have to admit, I'll never experience it the same way again.


6 comments:

  1. Hi Ron Great post. I would like to hear more about this class but also wanted to respond to your question about silence. I have not always liked silence. It is only in the last few years that I am able even think about sitting in silence. It used to be that the silence meant only me and what ever floated through my head. Not always something I wanted. I guess that echos what your follow up to Palmer's statement. But recently I have been practicing silence, to allow God to speak to me even if it doesn't feel so nice. Each day I let it wash over me a little more.

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    1. I like how you mention that you have been "practicing" silence. Silence, for most of us busy Americans, is a reality that is very far removed from us. So, it doesn't come naturally and therefore, takes practice. My internship site practiced centering prayer once a week for twenty minutes. I always found it interesting that most people came to that with the assumption that we were there "to allow God to speak" to us. I agree that this is a noble goal but, you know, sometimes I sit in silence just to "be", to exist in a way that I normally do not, without any expectation. I find that kind of silence to be of value too.

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  2. Thanks for the post, Ron! I also love silence, but I haven't taken the plunge and spent days in it. As an extrovert, I've always found myself oddly attracted to silence and contemplation. It's what I need to feel centered, refreshed and rejuvenated. I agree with the sentiments already posted that silence can bring surprises and "in your face" moments we're not ready for. I think it's wonderful, but one lingering question is how do I know what I'm experiencing in the silence is God rather than just me?

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    1. Great question! I wish I could answer that for you, but sadly I cannot. However, at the risk of answering a question with a question, I'm curious to know why you feel it is important to distinguish between God and yourself in what you experience in the silence?

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  3. I like this post. So much so, that I referenced it in my post for today. Hope you don't mind.

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