Sheer Silence: Part Two

In the midst of the busyness and noise of daily life, where can we turn for perspective and refreshment?  Is there an antidote from our seemingly relentless pace?

The answer is simple and profound: Practice being quiet.  Each day carve out space for rest and renewal.

What I’m suggesting is counter-cultural.  Be assured that the dominate culture will do everything in its power, subtle and overt, to get you back on the treadmill of busyness and noise.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.  You and I have the power to make changes.  Here are three steps to help you experience the gift of silence:

First, begin with a question:  ‘Where can you go and what can you do, to help you to be quiet, to reflect and relax?”  The answers are personal.

Second, put your idea (s) into practice.  Carve out at least 30 minutes.  Consider when in the day you have time.  If you are a busy parent or working a demanding job, this may take some creative planning.  Then put your idea into practice.  Try something multiple times to give it a chance.

Here are a few ideas (once you’ve turned off your phone):  Go for a run or walk, play in your garden, savor a hot drink in a restful setting, yoga, tai chi, walk your dog, cocoon with your cat, stroll in a park, choose a brief reading to quiet your mind…the list is endless.

Third, focus on your breath. Take a deep relaxed breath in and let your breath out.  Slow and easy.  Relaxed breathing will drop your blood pressure and increase the amount of oxygen in your blood stream.  Physiologically your muscles will relax and you’ll think more clearly.

Lectio Divina at Independence Park Beach

Consider sharing the silence with others. Most religious traditions understand the power of shared silence.  For ten years, once per week, I’ve started my day with a small group for Lectio Divina (meditating on Scripture).   During the summer we meet at a local beach.  The group holds me accountable to show up and shared meditation affirms the importance of being quiet.

Thomas Keating the Trappist monk and mystic says: “God’s first language is silence.  Everything else is a poor translation.”   Keating understands that silence is not an end unto itself but a doorway through which we may sense God’s loving presence.

To be clear I am not a natural contemplative.  I’m an extrovert.  I get a rush out of being busy.  But I also know that there are gifts to be found in being quiet.

Being quiet offers perspective and a foundation upon which to stand, from which to live.  When we are over stimulated we lose perspective, become unbalanced, anxious.

I invite you to try the following for one month: Carve out 30 minutes a day to be quiet.  Do that which helps you slow down.  Focus on the relaxed rhythm of your breath…  After each week make a mental note as to what you like and don’t like about being quiet, make adjustments to find what works best for you.  At the end of one month, if you’d like, send me an email at and let me know how you’re doing.

I wish you well in being quiet.  It’s an acquired ability.  Be patient.  Enjoy.


Lectio Divina: An Ancient Practice for Today

Some people are naturally contemplative. Being quiet and present to the moment seems to come more easily for some. That’s not me. I’m a talker. As a natural extrovert I’m energized by being around people and being busy.

Yet for sometime I’ve been striving to find a balance between my tendency to talk and be busy and a longing to be more quiet, reflective, attentive. Four years ago I was introduced to Lectio Divina, a Latin term meaning ‘divine reading’.

This practice was introduced to Christianity in the third century by a bishop named Origen. In the 6th century a monk named Benedict began to incorporate Lectio Divina as a recommended practice for his fellow monks.

Benedict and the Word

The practice is simple. Lectio Divina is a practice of reading the ancient texts from the Judeo-Christian tradition and sitting in silence. The earliest practitioners believed that scripture was a ‘living word’, which when spoken becomes animated by the Spirit of God. Lectio understood in this way becomes a

place of meeting

between the reader, the listener and that great mystery we call, Spirit.

Each Friday morning for the past four years I’ve gathered with a small group of practitioners. Three times we read the scripture for that coming Sunday’s worship service. Each reading is accompanied by a question: What image or phrase speaks to you? What questions or insights come to mind? What wisdom will you apply to your life?

Following each question we sit for 5 – 10 minutes in silence. Sometimes we respond briefly to the second question. The ‘good stuff’ however comes with the silence.

Reading the same passage three times allows us to hear at a deeper level. The silence which follows allows the hearer to become ‘steeped’ in the ‘word of God’ (think of a good cup of tea that becomes richer the longer the leaves are allowed to steep in the water).

I must add that there is something wonderfully moving about sitting in silence with others. Together a collective energy emerges. All religious traditions know this to be true.

Our word religion is from the Latin ‘religio’, which means to attach or re-attach to that which is sacred. Since the third century Lectio Divina has helped people to attach and re-attach to that which we believe is good, lasting and true. Lectio takes to the heart the wisdom of the prophet Isaiah who 2700 years ago said: “Listen and your soul will live.” (Isaiah 55:3).

Note: First Baptist Church in Beverly has an open group every Friday morning 7:15 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. 221 Cabot Street, Beverly MA. Or, ask around in your local community for an existing group or invite a few friends to start one with you. As you listen you will be blessed and be a blessing to others.