Monday, November 11, 2013

The Power of Silence

I had an opportunity to attend a weekend workshop sponsored by Canadian Quakers. The topic was Visiting Ministry. I won't get all God-dy on you, don't worry.

There was a ton of information and lots of chat. It was an intense weekend. Yet, every so often, we deliberately stopped the flow of information or conversation and settled into silence. Thirteen of us sat around in chairs, made ourselves comfortable (a bit of an oxymoron given that they were University lounge chairs, designed for an unknown human shape) and began to be silent.

The first silence I joined in, my ears and head were thumping. It wasn't my heart, it was the vibration of a 5 hour car ride accompanied by a 5 hour conversation on how we could save the Quaker world. I tried to breath in an even rhythm, ease the tension in my entire body and just take a few minutes to rest.

The next day, we settled into silence at least 5 times. Each time, the silence lasted as long as the last person's need to be quiet lasted. Some silences were shorter than others. The one before lunch was the shortest. Each time, it became easier to get to a settled place of concentration. Each time, the energy of the group was more centered on the ideas and energy these ideas created. Each time, it took fewer minutes for me to find a focus, to ease out of deep concentrated listening; towards a deep Silence.

On Sunday, we gathered as a group for a Quaker worship, which is done in silence. The concept is that we are all waiting in silence expectation for a whisper of the Divine. I guess that is a bit of God talk, but not too much. The point is, regardless of your relationship to a Divine anything or not, the practice of stopping several times a day for a short refreshment of letting go of concentration, thoughts, worries, aching muscles or whatever, is deeply soothing. A hot tub under starlight.

Usually when I participate in these kinds of weekends, my head is zinging, my neck is a mess of knots, I'm close to an anxiety attack from listening too hard and worrying too much about if I will like what's happening around me, and what.... good heavens, what! if I have to do something silly. Like a skit. I hate skits. Luckily, no skits were required, but I would have been in a much better mood had one been.

I think the biggest tip of the weekend I will  work into my daily life is to make sure there is are a few minutes of silence several times a day. I can stand in front of the sink for a while before washing dishes. I can sit after tying my runners before heading out the door, or after coming back. I can sit a bit in quiet before I open the computer to get back to work.

I will listen to the hum of the refrigerator, a sound I usually dislike, and let it wash over me. I will listen to its slight pulsing and let it take away my thoughts of the moment. The woosh of the passing cars will be a soft swipe of hands along my tense muscles. And I bet I'll get up feeling very refreshed.

Why don't you join me?

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