In response to my recent post, Solitude for Ourselves and Others, a reader commented,
…there is a particular radio talk show that i frequently listen to in which the host advocates a meditation exercise called “be still and know”…his listeners regularly call into the show to tell of their experiences while trying the exercise and the results are interesting in that the majority of them can’t bare to sit still in silence for any real length of time without being overcome by a sense of terror and fear…….very interesting.
His observation is, I think, quite correct. For many people silence and solitude are a fearful experience. This is true even in our worship. If there is “too much silence” we often think something is wrong, something broke, or somebody forgot their part. We get fidgety wondering when, and hoping, somebody will do something. We have been led to believe that our value, identity, and existence are determined by what we do, how much we accomplish, and what we can show for ourselves. The Psalmist, however, teaches otherwise:
“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:5).
For much of Christianity right-believing or right-behavior occupy the central place in the Church. These are certainly important aspects of the Christian tradition and life. They must, however, give way to right-being as the primary orientation of the Church. The life, love, and resurrection Christ offers humanity happen at the level of our being. That is the only place healing and wholeness can ever happen. Right-believing and right-doing flow naturally from right-being.
Silence and solitude ask us to trust that we are more than what we do. If we are not doing and producing we are often left wondering who we are and what life is about. Silence and solitude are not so much about the absence of noise or other people as they are about presence. Through silence and solitude we create space to be present and open to the One who is always and already present to us. Silence and solitude are the means by which we show up. Ultimately, this is much more about our interior condition than it is the exterior environment around us.
So, I wonder…
- What is your experience of silence and solitude?
- What has it taught you?
- How has it transformed and shaped your life?