Enjoy the Silence

Yesterday I had a spare pocket of time, so I decided to sit quietly and stare out the window. In the silence, time seemed to go more slowly. When worries floated into my head, I tried to stop them. I focused on my own breathing, on my own heartbeat. It was difficult to stop the same thoughts from circling around in my head, but eventually I managed to focus on a point in the distance outside. Maybe it was a random leaf, or a bird pecking around in a neighbor’s yard, but whatever it was, I stared at it for a long time, until I felt serene. I said a few words of a prayer, but they floated away. Maybe God knew what was in my mind already and understood before I could articulate it, whether in thought or in word.

Silence is healthy sometimes. In church, the priest was talking about how it’s hard to find silence in the world these days, since every moment is filled with some kind of sound or some kind of technology to take our minds off spiritual matters. Silence is necessary to feed our souls and prepare us for a world that sometimes forgets that it doesn’t need to constantly be making noise.

Words like violence break the silence
Come crashing in, into my little world
Painful to me, pierce right through me…
– Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence”

11 thoughts on “Enjoy the Silence

  1. A lot of people have trouble with silence, probably because there’s so little of it around.

    As I may have mentioned at some point, I was raised Quaker, and Quakers worship in silence, at least in theory. The idea is that people should worship in silence, and then stand to speak (if and) when they are moved to do so.

    In practice, some people bring messages all prepared in index cards, some people clip their nails, one guy used to play the harmonica (in his defense, he played it really well — usually Beethoven).

    The Meeting that I used to be a member of turned into a “popcorn” meeting (no sooner did one person speak and sit down than the next one popped up — or sometimes two at once), so people started separate “more-silent” Silent Meetings — one earlier on Sunday morning and the other at the same time in a different part of the building.

    If Quakers have trouble with silence, it’s no surprise that everybody else does, too. 🙂

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    1. That’s interesting. In the Catholic Church, we have Eucharistic adoration, which is where we sit in total silence for an hour and meditate on the body of Christ. It’s a challenge to focus on prayer when there’s so much going on around you… the other people will be shifting in their seat or blowing their nose or even quietly whispering… interesting.

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      1. I didn’t really encounter that sort of thing (people fidgeting) in Quaker Meeting, and I don’t ever remember whispering, but, even if imperfectly practiced, Quakers are very used to silence.

        I do think my original comment may have been one-sided. All of that certainly happened, but all Meetings weren’t like that. I had a girlfriend in High School and I went to her family’s Meeting for New Year’s Eve at least once. It was a suburban meeting, so it was a better idea for New Year’s Eve than a city meeting would have been.

        People gathered around 7pm, had a pot-luck dinner, then sat around and socialized, sang some songs, there were games for the kids, and so on. At eleven, we went up into the meeting room for Meeting for Worship, from eleven to midnight. (It’s usually difficult to have kids sit in silence for an hour, but they were tired by the late hour and the games they’d been playing. 🙂 )

        I remember the meeting was going so well that it didn’t break until nearer to 12:30am. (A Quaker meeting has a set end-time, but it doesn’t actually break until people start to turn to their neighbors to shake hands, which is usually started by the “weighty” friends on the facing benches at the front of the room. I was in a few meetings that went far beyond their planned end-time because people were really into it.) It was a great and hopeful way to begin the new year.

        Of course, I later had some excellent New Year’s experiences involving loud music and alcohol, but that was different.

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  2. Nice reflective post Maggie. As I read I am immersed in silence. It is quiet here. It seems there is only the sound of my thoughts. Thinking. Too much. Past noise. Future longings. Asking what if……

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  3. True indeed. And very true when you say that it’s hard to find silence sometimes. Even if we don’t know it, our minds are full to the brim with thoughts and finding a time when you can push those thoughts to the side if extremely difficult.

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