Monday, November 4, 2013

Why We Need Silence

A few weeks ago, I sat down with my cup of coffee and started scrolling through my CNN app so I could be a good, informed citizen. Among headlines on the government shutdown, Syria, and general depressing things, this video caught my attention.

If you don't want to watch the video (it's only 2 minutes), the general gist of it is this: a young chef spent some time in a Buddhist Monastery while he was in college and was struck by the silent breakfast they would eat each day. So he opened a restaurant in NYC where the patrons eat their meals in silence.

I think this is so interesting. Silence is definitely not a norm in our culture.

Last year I went on a retreat with the Sisters of Life in NYC. They spend their waking until lunch in silence, and have a full day of silence once a week. As retreatants, we were able to join in that silence.

Sr. Mary Pieta - a former FOCUS missionary!
After the retreat, I took a cab to my friend Kerry's apartment to spend a day with her before I headed back to Nebraska. I was so struck by the noise. In my cab, there was a TV that I couldn't turn the volume off of, the radio was on, and the cabbie was on his cell phone. The windows were open and all the noises on the streets were coming in. I had him drop me off at a coffee shop while I waited for Kerry to get off of work. The noises of coffee brewing, music blaring, and people talking filled my head and I just could not think.

I think people are coming to this restaurant because they recognize a need for silence in their lives.

I know a lot of people who need noise to fall asleep or say that they can't stand to be in silence. This is a problem. Silence creates space for us to breathe, to calm down and really understand what we are experiencing and feeling. I know when I am going through a rough time, or feeling a lot of anxiety, it is so tempting for me to blast my music or turn on the TV to drown out the negative things I'm feeling. But when I do this, I lose an opportunity to grow and whatever the situation is usually ends up worse in the long run.

I'm in the habit of praying daily, but a lot of times that looks like me word-vomiting everything that is going on in my life onto my journal or into Jesus' ears. Or it looks like me reading scripture and analyzing it and applying it to my life. This is all good and necessary, but we know that God speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. These past few years I've been learning that if I don't take time to create space for real, receptive silence, I lose touch with God and the core of who I am.

The more space I create for silence in my life, the more I crave it. Yes, it takes a lot of effort and self control (something I am not very great at), but the pay off is worth it.

Silence in our lives helps connect us to God, to our true selves, and leaves us with an underlying sense of self-awareness and peace. To me, these things are worth the effort.

Check back later this week for 5 easy ways to create space for silence in your life.

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