The reason I attended a 10-Day Silent Retreat was because I am hooked on periods of silence to restore my soul...It all began in the Baptist Church when our women’s class took 38-hour silent retreats. I have been leading them, attending them and hoping to encourage others to discover them from that point on. A weekend wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to give more time to Silence. That was the attraction to the 10-Day Silent Retreat. I learned a lot more about silence.
Even when my silence was day after day, I found out that I wasn’t necessarily being with God during all that time of not talking. I did enjoy His creation, His church services, and His creativity and by the way, the three deer who walked right through the snow during my devotions were awesome; I even caught them on video. We were instructed to be in Gran Silence where we are not supposed even to make eye contact with each other, but it doesn’t come naturally and people make eye-contact. I personally would like more silence, but it is necessary to speak to others for their sake. It truly is a gift when no one needs you to talk to them so that you can connect more deeply to God.
God helped me not waste the time of silence. The Holy Spirit would put this song in my mind to draw me back to my purpose “Stayed Upon Jehovah, Hearts are fully Blessed, Finding as He Promised, Perfect Peace and Res.t” That song would hum along in my mind as a reminder that He was still here—the One I came to walk with yet leave His presence so often. How many of those hours have I truly been aware of the Divine Presence? Not even half I would think. But our Sweet Father is happy to help me along and so willing to put up with my poor attention span.
Silence is not about noise or words (though it does help not to be thinking outside of your own head). Silence is about making room for God in your mind. It is only when you get silent that you realize the loudest voice you are distracted by is your own mind, your own thoughts. Practice for us is focusing our attention on concentrating on God’s presence and action. Learning God’s language which is silence. You bracket your own thinking in order to listen to the deeper impulses of God’s silence. Thomas Keating urges that the purpose of silence is so that you will find your true self which is Love—who God made, God uniqueness manifested in you.
Teresa of Avilia wrote: “Here’s what a friendship with our dearest Companion, our holiest God, is like. In it, intimacy is always possible and can’t be stopped, except on our side, for God is always open to us. Nothing can come between us and God, our Spouse, and we can be alone with God whenever we want, as long as we want. All we have to do is desire it.”
So let us close the door on our worldly calendars and deadlines and live instead in paradise with the God of love. If we desire this closeness that comes from closing the door on the world, we must realize that that door is our hearts. We don’t have to be mystics to accomplish this communion. We only need to focus on God with our will. That’s all. It’s our own choice, and because God loves us, we can do this.
Don’t’ confuse this state with empty silence. I am speaking of a turning to inward and a listening.
On Wednesday at 4 p.m. today our time of silence will be ended with our closing session. That brought us to 189 hours of silence. What I learned is that my soul is never ready to leave the silence, but it is ready to meet again with the community. I also discovered that it is not the number of hours of silence that matter. Whether it is a day of silence, a weekend or ten days, I feel the same when it is time to talk again. I have connected deeply with God, and I want to do it again and again.