There are many things that are stunningly wonderful about living in the Bay Area. The beauty of the land, the diversity of the people, the gentleness of the weather, and the access to culture, arts, and various forms of entertainment. Most of my years have been lived here and I cannot imagine calling a different place home. However, no place is perfect. Extraordinarily high housing, too many cars on the freeways, and not-so-great public transportation cause me and many concern. While these are all true, the thing that I am most acutely aware of, especially this time of year, the Season of Lent, is the absence of silence.
When Ron and I were in Minnesota last summer we spent several days at a cabin in the middle of nowhere. The silence was profound, especially at night. Our hosts were concerned about our being able to sleep in such quiet and suggested we turn on the fan to generate some background noise. No need for that. Ron and I were like parched pilgrims at a flowing stream and we drank in the silence happily.
When I spent 30 days at a Jesuit Retreat center for the Ignatian Exercises a few years ago, the structured quiet and expectation of keeping silent, no talking at all, was pure bliss for this introvert. In the real world, I find myself looking for ways to keep silence. In this season of journeying inward, I invite each of you to experiment with silence.
In her book, Holy Solitude, Heidi Haverkamp gives 10 ways to be silent. I paraphrase them for you here.
- Gaze out a window and simply observe.
- Whisper a word to yourself that will remind you of God’s love, repeating it for a set time: Jesus, Grace, Gentleness, Peace…
- Follow your breathing, perhaps using a short prayer for breathing in and breathing out: God is Love / I Love God.
- Daydream of things that bring you pleasure, a walk in the woods, a long bath, a laughing child. When you find yourself thinking of your to-do list, gently bring yourself back to your daydream.
- Pray with your body by concentrating on each part at a time beginning with your toes, moving to your ankles, up to your calves, until you reach the top of your head.
- Drive in silence without the radio on and without using your Bluetooth. Notice the difference in your awareness.
- Take a nap, lying down for even 20 minutes.
- Use your creative side to doodle without any plan, using pens, pencils, markers, crayons.
- Try to descend your mind into your heart. The author admits she’s not entirely sure what this means, but it is a phrase offered by Henri Nouwen. I suggest it means visually imagine all of your thoughts and feelings drifting down to settle in the heart in the middle of your chest.
- Try meditation such as centering prayer, not as a search for perfection, but as a practice of silence and of failing at something. In silence, let yourself be human. (For more instruction on Centering Prayer, talk with parishioner Brian Cochran).
And finally, as we approach the Paschal Triduum: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, participate fully! These services, culminating with Easter Sunday, are the Highest Holy Days in the Christian calendar and are meant to be taken as a whole movement, from the recognition of the Last Supper of Jesus, to the walk up Golgotha to the Cross and Crucifixion, to the first lighting of the Great Fire and the Joyous Celebration of the Risen Christ. I look forward to celebrating our faith with you.