Loud Silence – Part One

Silence has suddenly come into the spotlight in my thoughts nudged by a few recent events. As I am writing, the world around is shrouded by a blanket of snow and snow seems to silence the world.

Last night I watched the final programme in the BBC series The Big Silence which was about taking five people guided by Benedictine Monk, Father Christopher, and helping them to introduce silent meditation into their busy lives. Initially they spent a weekend at the monastery and a few weeks later they had a total immersion when they participated in an eight day silent retreat. The programme then followed them in their endeavours to integrate silent meditation into their normal lives.

At first all five struggled with the sudden shock of silence. With no external distractions of music, television, mobile phones, computers or conversation they were left to their own thoughts. They were left to travel on a journey of self-discovery guided only by their daily session with their mentor.

The travellers all went through some stormy weather and eventually came to a comfortable and enlightened place. The destination was different for each of them. What struck me most was that their silence enabled them to reconnect with themselves, as Father Christopher said “Silence is the gateway to the soul.”

In their busy lives the travellers had been avoiding some very important issues – and avoiding themselves.

Having reconnected the five then returned to their lives transformed, only to find it hard to recreate this connection in their normal environment. Their fast-track was through daily meditation and eventually they were all able to incorporate this in some way into their routines. Some had to make significant changes in either their beliefs or their behaviours to enable this to happen.

In a simple way this reminded me of how we go on a training course and leave with all the very best of intention of applying our new learning and doing things differently. We may have changed but the world around us hasn’t and so we often go for the easy option of falling back on old habits.

In terms of silence I wonder what you and I would discover by allowing ourselves time to shut out the world and to look internally.

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