Today I am grateful for silence. This is an unusual development in my life, gratitude for silence. Silence is not something that comes easily to me (I know, there are some of you out there who know me who are reading this, saying, “Ya think????”) First of all, I am a hardwired extrovert. Can’t help it. Second of all, growing up as the youngest in this wordy, articulate family, I learned quickly how how talk and I did it often! I had to keep up with all those big kids!
There comes a point in life, though, where words just don’t cut it, especially when it comes to things spiritual. The first time I noticed this was when I was a stay at home mom. I remember going to see my spiritual director at the time, and in the most calm way possible, I expressed that I was about to lose my mind! The chaos and noise of raising three kids was a lot, and it made it difficult for me get centered in any prayerful way. The isolation of staying home and lack of adult company was also a challenge. I was finding it hard. Very hard. My director suggested approaching my stay at home parenting as a contemplative exercise. It seemed paradoxical at the time, but I had learned by that point in my life that when a paradox was present, God wasn’t far behind. So I gave it try. I used nap time as a time for sitting in silence (15 minutes of it, at least – the rest of the time I napped as well!). I intentionally tried to be present to what was, whatever it was. Staying present to the moment was a Godsend. In many ways, contemplation and silence saved me during those stay at home years — and I am SURE it saved my kids from having a really loony mother (or at least a LOONIER mother 🙂 )!
This phase of my life is another really busy phase. I have lots of different roles, lots of different demands of my time. I also experience another kind of isolation at times, now that my children have left the nest and I have much more time alone. And the awareness of the impermanence of life is so much more real at this age. Once again, it is going to the silence that saves me. Taking 20-30 minutes, just sitting in the presence of God, not thinking anything, not having to accomplish anything, makes all the difference in the world. Not every sitting is perfect. Some days go better than others. But my very wise, present day spiritual director (I’ve had some great mentors!) tells me on a regular basis that the fruit of the meditation is not in the silence itself. It’s in your everyday life. Sometimes I sit and my mind is like a monkey circus, filled with to-do lists, or worries, or sometimes just the continual loop of song lyrics! I’ll get off my cushion and think “well ,that was a waste of time!” But God doesn’t need us to be perfect. God just needs us to show up, to sit in the silence. To be present. God does the rest. Somehow in the midst of all the chaos and stress and worry, God finds a way to quiet my soul, to quiet my mind, to let me know God is present. And it makes all the difference. Somehow, those few minutes of sitting keeps me in touch with that hum in the universe that vibrates underneath it all, that holy hum that lets me know as, as Julian of Norwich said, that “all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Thank you, silence.