“Words are very
— Depeche Mode
There is not enough silence in the world. More than ever before, daily life consists of a near-constant bombardment of noise and messaging.
When I am introducing people to Centering Prayer meditation, the first challenge for many is the simple weirdness for them of being silent and in silence, “alone” with their thoughts, for more than a few minutes. Between cell phones, iPods, the radio on at work or in the car, and the TV flipped on the moment they walk in their door, they manage to keep background noise going all day.
The paradox with meditation and other forms of silent prayer, and especially with silent retreats, is that even though they are formless and goalless, they achieve something wonderful — something potentially transformative: they create space, physical and mental space, to become more open.
That space, made most apparent by silence, can be an uncomfortable place to be. Why is this? Why is the weirdness threatening for some? One answer is that offered by Fr. Jim Martin in his latest book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Anything:
We may fear silence because we fear what we might hear from the deepest parts of ourselves. We may be afraid to hear that ‘still small’ voice. What might it say?
Might it ask us to change?
This is the great power and the great challenge of silence: it can reveal truth. Or more accurately, it takes away our ability to run from Truth.