The Gift of Silence

St John of the Cross wrote “Silence is God’s first language.” Allow that to sit, just for a moment in your mind and heart, they are powerful words that come as a balm in a noisy world.

We are a noisy people, I suspect the noisiest we have ever been as humanity. Noise is endless and constant, it is never far from us and it has the habit of dulling our senses and perception. It comes to us eternally like constant crashing waves, it drowns out the stillness in its cacophony. Noise also comes at us from within, these often being the sounds that are the hardest to diminish. Our heads ring with obsessive thoughts, to-do-lists, demands, accusations and resentments. Even when we manage to get away from the external noises we rarely sit quietly for long enough to dial down the internal chatter.

The idea of real silence can be frightening to many of us. To be alone with ourselves with no distraction can leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed. We often don’t want to sit with the reality of who we are when everything becomes still. We don’t want to be in a situation when we come face to face with our darkness or our pain. And yet silence is often what we most need and if we can walk through the sometimes agonising discomfort it brings, the result can be life-changing.

Silence forces us to face ourselves and all that that means – things will be given space to surface and we may not like what rises. In silence we have no control, we have nothing to fill the cavernous gaps that are covered by the distraction of noise. Silence invite us to simply be without any form of doing and that can be scary.

And yet… if we can practice this simple gift  of silence something extraordinary begins to happen. Christopher L. Heurtz, in his book The Sacred Enneagram puts it so well…

But with practice come moments of breaking through the internal chaos. I experience the grace of letting go – of my insecurities about not being in control, of my pains and discomforts, of even, the new, intriguing thoughts churning through my mind. And then, I find love.

Love from God.

Love for God.

Love from myself.

Love for myself.

Love from others.

Love for others….

My sense is that the mystery of silence draws us deeper into love, and love is something that we cannot control; love invites us into fresh ways of thinking ad unfamiliar ways of being.

And who doesn’t want to be more connected to love, more connected to themselves and more connected to those around them?

My own journey with silence has been unfolding for many years now and I can say, with utter conviction, that it has changed me in more profound, lasting and deep ways than I ever thought possible. Silence reaches into the depths and mysteries of who we are. It reaches into the mud and muck and pulls out handfuls of grime, handfuls of ways of being that don’t belong to who we truly are. It is cleansing and healing, powerful and gentle, it moves like a wind into every crevice of our hearts and little by little it brings change. Silence doesn’t allow us to hide from ourselves but invites us to see the false and grow into our True Self. It is a precious gift from God and if we can respond to its offerings it will change us. It does take practice, it does take courage, it feels like failing almost every time we engage it. It doesn’t come with accolades or pats on the back, there is no app or programme to follow or rewards to collect. It is simple, life-changing and life-giving and it is worth fighting for.