I’m not a quiet person. You can ask anyone, and they will tell you. I sing, laugh, talk, chat, joke (all in a loud volume). I am rarely ever quiet.
More than that, though…I’ve noticed that I don’t really like silence. I began to take note of all the sounds that I surround myself with on a regular basis and woah! From the moment I wake up, I am surrounded–music on my phone, TV on while I eat breakfast, radio on my computer at work, CD’s in the car, and even a sound machine when I am trying to go to sleep at night! I avoid silence.
Why? Silence seems like such a strange thing to avoid!!
You see, I see silence as distance. Communication = Closeness. Silence feels like being forgotten or, as the fabulous writer Annie Downs said, being un-thought of (which isn’t a word, but it is DEFINITELY a thing!). Silence feels like an expanse widening between my heart and other people’s hearts…so I communicate…ALOT! I keep that distance at a manageable level, meaning I keep about an inch of space between me and other people! Ok…that is an exaggeration, but you get the idea!
I feel safer when I’m closer, and I feel closer when I’m communicating.
But lately, my heart and mind has been pulled to the concept of Sacred Silence. Sacred Silence or “Great Silence” is a regular part of monastic life. Besides the whole “vow of silence” thing, monks and nuns would also partake in periods of silence each and every day. Normally, it was after evening prayers until a set time each morning.
When I started researching this concept of sacred silence, my quiet time began to focus on the power of our tongues. Uh oh!! I see a theme here! Do you follow me??
James 3 talks all about the tongue, comparing it to a bit in the mouth of a horse, a small rudder on a large ship, and a spark which ultimately sets off a forest fire. In the midst of all these comparisons and warnings about the tongue’s ability to destroy, I noticed something that I never had before: it also described the tongue as restless.
My tongue is restless, because my heart is anxious.
Having an anxiety disorder is a tricky thing. Most times, my brain feels like it is full–a computer with fifty thousand tabs open. Everything connects to everything else, so one thought or feeling or observation can lead me to a memory or conversation and so on and so forth. If I am focused on something else, I can push those anxious pathways towards the back of my mind. If I am talking or reading or writing or working, then I can turn the volume down in my brain (Sometimes. You can ask my friends, this is not always the case!).
But when there is silence–when there is nothing to distract my anxious brain and heart from thoughts that spin and worst case scenarios that overwhelm, well, that’s where things get messy.
I don’t want to fear silence. I don’t want silence to trigger anxiety within me, because silence in and of itself is a good thing. There is contentment in silence. There is clarity in silence. There is even (gasp!) COMMUNICATION in silence. God speaks when we are silent and listening.
So, I have resolved myself to take an adventure with silence. Each and every day, I have started allotting five minutes of complete silence. This is not right before I go to bed or when I am bored, no it is in the middle of my evening. Five minutes on the clock, sitting still, all electronics off, nothing to read or distract my brain.
Now, five minutes may not seem like a long time, but the first two days have nearly killed me. How sad/funny is that?!?! Five minutes has never felt more like fifty years! But, as I let my brain spin and the thoughts come, it is becoming easier to talk to God about them. I am not pushing my thoughts aside or distracting myself with something bright and shiny. I am becoming aware of the thoughts and once aware, I can bring them before God and simply say “Here they are, and they are kind of a hot mess.”
This Sacred Silence has also impacted how I communicate. I am more aware of WHY I am communicating, and when I start to communicate out of anxiety, my heart is starting to whisper, “You don’t need that to feel safe. You ARE safe because you ARE loved. Always.”
It is a whisper, that I hope someday will turn into a roar. but until then, I will keep exposing myself to the silence, believing that what it shows me and what He teaches me through it will be an adventures that is SO worth it!