Sep 15, 2008

Silence is not just the absence of noise, silence contains a quality all its own, a palpable presence which recognizes us, invites us deeper and deeper into its presence, heals us, and surprises us with its embrace, welcoming us. With all that silence has to offer us, why is it so difficult to sit quietly? The difficulty lies in the clamorous voices within us.

Have you tried to sit quietly, to meditate or contemplate, only to jump out of the chair after a minute or two, because you could not tolerate listening to the voices in your head? We avoid the quiet because we are not quiet inside. It can seem that there are many different voices which pull us in many directions at the same time. When we are busy, the voices tend to recede, put the minute that we become inactive, then they clamor for attention. We can escape them only when we are daydreaming, or maybe in a guided meditation, because we are then entering into another world.

The voices inside us come from the experiences of our childhood: the admonitions of our parents and teachers, our fears and traumas, and the lessons of life. As children we internalize these lessons, but they become obstacles to our development as adults, never changing their exhortations even as we are learning new things and facing new challenges as adults. They try to pull us back to a way of being in the world that only works in childhood. I had hoped that the voices in my mind would have disappeared years ago, but I have learned that they do persist. While we can’t rid ourselves of them, we can distance ourselves from the power they hold over us.

The problem with the voices is twofold: the influence they have over our decisions and choices and the barrier they create between us and the subtle voices of the Spirit of God and of our own soul. If we continue to give them power over us, we remain children, not adults, no matter what our age is, continuing to do things that are not good for us. How can we distance ourselves from the power of these voices? First, we must listen to them and really hear what they are saying: their themes, variations and roots. Then comes the practice: over and over we practice seeing them flow like a river that we are watching from the riverbank. They are flowing by, but we are not affected. We repeat this practice until the voices no longer have the power to disturb, to irritate, to push us around. Then we begin to hear the subtle and quiet voices within us. And from then on a new world will emerge, full of new possibilities.

Silence is the root of the spiritual life. Without silence there is no profound relationship with the Lord. The voice of God is very quiet, very subtle. We must be tranquil before we can hear it. After you have done the suggested practice sufficiently, sit, calm yourself, and then enter into the silence to meet the Holy Spirit. He is there, awaiting us in the stillness. Listen to Him, talk to Him, let Him be your best friend, do what He suggests. This is the essence of the spiritual life.

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