4 Benefits of Silence and Solitude

Sometimes I catch myself thinking silence is not important and actually a waste of my precious time. There are always chores to do, people to communicate with and ‘busi-ness’ to busy myself with.

If life is so short, why bother sitting still once or twice a day? Why be alone if I can relate to and have fun with others? Why be idle if I can be working?

The Benedictine monks as well as the author and priest Henri Nouwen (in his book Out of Solitude*) recognized the value of silence and solitude.

Let’s look at four benefits of silence and solitude according to monks and Henri Nouwen:

Silence as antidote to impulsiveness and lack of focus

Noise spreads my focus thin, silence enhances it. If my mind is like a laser beam, I am sharper, more focused and present in and after a period of silence.

Distraction is a post-modern public enemy and we need silence as a healthy antidote, to stop the addictive yearning for always more stimuli.

“Silence requires the discipline to recognize the urge to get up and go again as a temptation to look elsewhere for what is close at hand.” Henri Nouwen

Silence as a way to my emotions and my heart

Sitting still and listening revives my strength and restores my emotional balance. I tap into new energy at the source when I find “the freedom to stroll in my own inner yard, and to rake up the leaves there and clear the paths so I can easily find the way to my heart.” (H.N.)

Silence to find order and peace, make a ‘cozy home’

Silence is a gift to myself, reconnecting to a power greater than me, someone I call God, just as the Benedictines and Nouwen do. A way of really being present.
When I am not ‘home’ in my own heart, who can I receive there?

“Slowly and surely you will discover an order and familiarity which deepens your longing to stay home”
H.N.

Silence to learn to listen

Listening to something or someone greater than ourselves  requires turning inward instead of being in a constant reactive state.
We might receive an intuitive thought or helpful guidance when we ‘just’ sit still for a while.
Being attentive to another person is another fruit I can reap from spending time in silence and solitude.

“Hearken continually within thine heart, O son, giving attentive ear to the precepts of thy master.”
(Prologue Rule of Benedict)

I’ve noticed that my habit of being still morning and evening is developing, now that I’ve grown accustomed to a big change in my life.

I love living this life, seasoned with some Benedictine flavour!

How are you doing this week, developing some Benedictine habits?

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Spread the word, word of mouth rocks!

Ester

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tips for a non-consumerist Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is coming up in 4 days. You either dislike it or love it. But there’s a third option for all you who fight a raging war against Valentine’s madness: we could all twist it round again from being the commercial, consumerist feast it has become to a day to show people our genuine love and to perform random acts of kindness.

“[Love] If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

First I want to share with you the origins of the feast:

In the Catholic Encyclopedia we read:

Saint Valentine’s Day

The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules we read:

For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers’ tokens. Both the French and English literatures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the practice.

The custom of choosing and sending valentines has of late years fallen into comparative desuetude.

What if we could broaden the meaning of Valentine’s day and make it pertain to all the people around us?

I want to propose some tips for a simple and non-consumerist Valentine’s day and — in fact — any other day:

  • write an e-card to a sick or lonely person, or to your friends and family at: http://www.dayspring.com/ecards/
  • buy a magazine from a homeless person and buy them some bananas and luxury nuts too
  • smile to the people you meet today and greet them purposely
  • write a card or letter to a long lost friend or family member
  • give your pets an extra hug today
  • go visit that lonely elderly neighbour or granny from church
  • craft your own cards for the people you love
  • do the dishes and make the bed for your spouse — unasked!
  • put up little post-it notes in every room with sweet words or Scripture-verses on it for your spouse
  • send text messages to the people from your phone’s address book telling them they are special and loved
  • And to you singles out there: Why not write a handcrafted Valentine’s card to your secret beloved?

Although we sometimes forget to honor and show love to our loved ones, friends and family, it can be even harder to remember to show love and kindness to strangers.

When Jesus tells us the following in John 13:34 (New International Version), He doesn’t only speak about love for the ones we already know and love:

34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

How can we be more kind and loving toward strangers?

This morning when I had my steaming cup of spicy Yogi Tea I read a message attached to the tea bag: “The art of happiness is to serve all.”

I found some awesome ideas to serve and give joy to other people at a website on performing R.A.K’s: Random Acts of Kindness is http://www.helpothers.org/ideas.php.

I will share a few with you here:

  • Public Transportation

    Before you get off the bus or train, leave an inspiring book on a seat with a Smile Card. Give a flower to the bus driver or anyone else that looks like they can use it. Leave a nice CD with a smile card. Offer gum or candy to the person sitting next to you. Give your seat to the elderly or mothers with children if it’s crowded. Help people find their way if they look lost. Write a card with a beautiful quote or a blessing and leave it on your seat for someone to find.

  • Five Bucks And Under

    What can you do with five bucks to make someone’s day? Tape the exact change for a soda to a vending machine or a payphone. Pay the toll for the person behind you. Leave flowers in front of someone’s house. Bake cookies for your neighbors. Put quarters in the laundry machine for the next person. Send cards with beautiful messages to anonymous people. Leave chocolate on the desk of your co-workers. Treat someone to a cup of their favorite coffee.

  • Gift of Positivity

    Restrain from criticizing or saying anything negative to anyone this week. Don’t gossip! In a challenging situation, dare to see the glass half full rather than half empty. Listen more than you speak. Give freely of yourself. Practice kindness at every opportunity you get.

I want to conclude with a Henri Nouwen quote about God’s love, the only One who is able to give perfect and unconditional love:

What can we say about God’s love? We can say that God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, “I love you, if …” There are no ifs in God’s heart. God’s love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God’s love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related events or circumstances. Does that mean that God does not care what we do or say? No, because God’s love wouldn’t be real if God didn’t care. To love without condition does not mean to love without concern. God desires to enter into relationship with us and wants us to love God in return.
Let’s dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone, let’s celebrate it everyday! Get going and make someone happy! 🙂

p.s. For more on love:

  • Tara Rodden Robinson from GTD Virtual Study Group wrote an excellent blog on loving productivity http://www.tararobinson.com/2010/02/loving-productivity.html
  • Max Lucado wrote 2 books on God’s love: “3.16” and ” God thinks you’re wonderful”.
  • Did you know that if you search the Bible for the word love, you can find it 697 times?

Jesus puts it this way in