Is Silence the Answer?

You've played them, perhaps: The inner videos spoken of in Chapter 2 of A Sunlit Absence.

These looping thoughts "stirred up by a thought or image, can actually make us sick. Not just spiritually, but mentally and physically as well."

How to counter this? Says Laird, "The life of stillness gradually heals...and leads us into the wide open fields where buried treasure lies."

The center of this stillness can be found in a kind of breath prayer.

I say can be found, because though it can work as part of gaining freedom, I don't think it is necessarily a solution by itself. Especially for the person who suffers from ADHD. Especially for the person who is using the inner videos as a way to avoid tapping into deep creative places.

This is complicated, to say the least. Obviously, stillness and rewiring our thoughts can be needful. But sometimes the rewiring happens through movement and action as much as stillness.

I am reminded that there is no *one way* to do spiritual practice, no perfect answer to the question of our freedom in God and in life. I'm not talking about Jesus here, about whether He is the answer. I'm not talking theology, I'm talking practice. It concerns me that we get on spiritual practice bandwagons that may or may not be helpful for us and others, and we can end up with shame and a sense of spiritual failure that saps us instead of turning us towards the world.

Is silence the answer? Perhaps. If what we mean is a silencing of the inner chatter and dread, through means that may or may not look like silence.


(for more on this issue, consult the chapter Poetry: Silence, in God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us.)

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Blogger David Rupert said...

For me, silence is a retreat from myself, my plans, my selfish pursuits, and my insecurities.

Silence is when God speaks to me.

Some need a shout.
I need a whisper.

Blogger Maureen said...

I don't know to what extent it's done anymore but when I was in grade school more years ago than I care to remember, children were marked down if they didn't speak up in class. I always thought how misunderstood the silent children were. It was rarely the case they had nothing to say and when they did speak it was important to hear what they had to contribute. I know this because I was one of those kids. I laugh, recalling this, because some people now consider me outspoken. What they don't get is what drives the speaking out.

Silence encompasses so much: Yes, withdrawal; a place where thoughts can make us sick, or serve as a retreat from pain, so that the conscious voice stops wrestling with its arguer; to weighing words before spoken, to finding a way into the heart that knows both pain and joy and always makes room for more of each. Silence also is a promoter of the creative; practicing it can feed the imagination in often brilliant ways. Listening to it actively can sometimes be incredibly revealing.

Anonymous Monique said...

Bask in the silence...

Blogger diana said...

I really appreciate your nuancing this idea as you have here. For many of us, silence is the way into listening, to quieting, to centering. And a breath prayer can be very helpful indeed. I went through an almost one year stretch of medical weirdnesses and began to eat more healthily and exercise more as a part of trying to get back to an even keel. What I learned was that the anxieties I had been stuffing for years rose right to the top of my oh-so-busy mind - and practicing the Jesus prayer was often the ONLY thing that helped me stay the course and put down the chocolate and keep me walking toward health.

But I had a son-in-law, now gone, who diagnosed himself with ADHD as an adolescent and learned to self-medicate with coffee. Before his final illness, he was a brilliant, creative computer programmer and the whole idea of a breath prayer would have been stultifying in the extreme. It is good to have a basket of various 'tools' to help us move along on this journey of faith. Not everything fits every person.

Blogger Nancy said...

I just bookmarked this. I've been toying with the idea of putting together a women's Sunday School class introducing a variety of spiritual practices. I think far too many women live in the world of guilt and should--I should be praying more, having a daily quiet time, meditating, memorizing scripture, fasting, meeting with a prayer or accountability partner, etc. I think your words are so important here--we are all wired so differently, and there are times and seasons when certain spiritual practices don't make sense. I think we need to encourage one another to dispense with the shoulds and find ways to make space in our lives for Jesus.


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