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Surprised by Silence

Back in October, I was able to get away on a weekend silent retreat. If you know me in real life,  you know how desperate I must have been to get away to volunteer to not talk for 2 days. To be honest, when our church started coordinating these years ago, I could see the value but thought participating might kill me. The fact that I jumped at a chance to go this fall is evidence of how crazy our life has become or proof that the Holy Spirit exists and is in the business of transformation (or both).

I didn’t want to blog about it right away but wanted to let it simmer. Almost 6 months later, I thought this Lenten season would be a good time to revisit what I thought/experienced/learned that weekend.

  • Intentional silence and solitude is the cure of loneliness. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but it’s in the stillness that you really feel God…and then you realized you’re not alone.
  • A silent retreat isn’t really silent. When silence is the expectation, even the non-spoken sounds become noisy. While I certainly enjoyed the sounds of nature at the beautiful retreat center we used, part of me longed for complete and utter silence. Someone had thought ahead to provide our group with earplugs. It was interesting experimenting with different “types” of silence. There were times over the weekend that I used the earplugs and got comfortable with the complete absence of sound.
  • Through using earplugs, I discovered that zero sound stimulation caused complete shut down (i.e., sleep). Not sure what that means or if it would still happen if I was well rested.
  • There is a difference between silence and stillness. When I first envisioned this retreat, I pictured myself sitting on a chair not being able to speak the entire weekend. YIKES! In fact, retreat participants walk, journal, fish, cook, photograph and exercise just all in silence. There were times when stillness also seemed appropriate.
  • Silence awakens the senses.
  • Silence is not awkward when it’s expected. It’s really how much camaraderie and community a group can experience when you don’t talk the majority of the time you are with them. We didn’t even talk during family-style meals.
  • Silence is healing.
  • Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Trust me.

After returning I’ve tried to create some space in our day for silence. The holiday season created a lot of disruption in our routine and silent time fell by the wayside. This spring we will go back to it. We start with just 5 minutes of silence before our school day starts. As the kids embrace that and adjust, we move to 10 or 15 minutes. Occasionally, we do an hour. When we do longer periods (like an hour) the kids are allowed to move around, go out side, go walking, draw, and journal just like the retreat time I experienced. The usually bulk at first but end up enjoying it. Just like me.

Are you game to introduce the practice of silence in your home?

1 Comment

  1. DanielleMarch 13, 2014

    We have a “rest time” which isn’t silence for the boys, but everyone goes into their own rooms for quiet play, books, etc. I stay downstairs to do work, but let me tell you, just a break from interacting is much needed for this homeschooling introvert! I really flourish if I get a bit of quiet silence every day.

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