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 ourselvesĀ  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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My silent room

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Here I am, aspiring little benedictine monk.
Today is the first day since I took on my new job that I took the time to sit in my silent room and be….silent. I have been praying, but not here. Having a sacred: set aside place to go and refuel is different though.

I thought I’d take you on a guided tour today.
The above picture is the one of my little ‘altar’, with things and pictures that matter to me and of course Scripture and a candle to remind me of the Spirit leading me, not me being in charge.

The modern icon of Jesus on the left hand side is by Russian artist Natalka Satsyk.

In front of it all is my kneeling bench, which I got at Stichting De Spil at my silent retreat.

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On the other side of my room is a comfy chair for reading, listening to sermons on my laptop, drinking my coffee and watching the morning sky.
My laptop and coffee rest on an authentic church kneeling chair I luckily got at a second hand store.

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Finally I want to show you my banana leaf ikea side table for spiritual literature and matching banana leaf devotional scripture cards holder.
The cards were a sweet gift from my friend Clare in South Africa.

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I feel blessed today and realize that silence is food for the soul in this impulse-driven world.
Blessings on you too.

Spiritual toolbox part 6: Silence and rest

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Far from home is a perfect place to start – Switchfoot (song: Golden)

Part I: Struggle to be silent

Silence, peace, rest, prayer, all states I cannot seem to be able to be in at the moment.

There’s always the urge to do stuff, be productive, be active.

There’s always fear of failing, of praying and it not being good enough or simply not enough, so I choose not to pray at all…

There’s guilt, confusion, procrastination, distraction.

The truth is: it is never enough. Jesus died for us on a pole and there isn’t anything we can do to pay Him back. That is called grace.

We may rest in His love and be with Him, broken and flawed as we are. Like the cat in the picture above, just lay back and enjoy the love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Here’s my prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus,

I love you so much, and I want to be with you so! Please teach me anew how to pray and be silent and restful without measuring and condemning its amount or quality, please take me out of my inertia and dryness, my guilt and my fear of failing in simply being your child, of drowning in things to pray for and then not making a start at all….

Fill me anew with your Holy Spirit. I also pray for my friends and family to fill them too and touch us with your love and grace.

Let me rest in your approval and love for me everyday more. Give me patience to be still and listen to your voice.

In your mighty and victorious name

AMEN

Part II: practicing silence

Wikipedia gives this definition of silence:

Silence is the relative or total lack of audible sound. By analogy, the word silence may also refer to any absence of communication, even in media other than speech.[1] Silence is also used as total communication, in reference to non verbal communication and spiritual connection.

A silent mind, freed from the onslaught of thoughts and thought patterns, is both a goal and an important step in spiritual development. Such “inner silence” is not about the absence of sound; instead, it is understood to bring one in contact with the divine, the ultimate reality, or one’s own true self.[2] Many religious traditions imply the importance of being quiet and still in mind and spirit for transformative and integral spiritual growth to occur. In Christianity, there is the silence of contemplative prayer such as Centering prayer and Christian meditation.

Basil Pennington, one of the best known proponents of the centering prayer technique, has delineated the guidelines for centering prayer:[5]

  1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax, and quiet yourself. Be in love and faith to God.
  2. Choose a sacred word that best supports your sincere intention to be in the Lord’s presence and open to His divine action within you (i.e. “Jesus“, “Lord,” “God,” “Savior,” “Abba,” “Divine,” “Shalom,” “Spirit,” “Love,” etc.).
  3. Let that word be gently present as your symbol of your sincere intention to be in the Lord’s presence and open to His divine action within you.
  4. Whenever you become aware of anything (thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, associations, etc.), simply return to your sacred word, your anchor.

Enjoy the age-old silence prayer techniques, but be careful not to judge yourself on whether you use a technique or not. Remember to just be. That’s enough. You’re good enough. Be a cat, cats don’t fret over being good enough…;-)