out of the silence

Posted on March 18, 2012


In many senses, all of my writing and all of my healing has come out of the silence. It wasn’t until I entered the silence and remained there, listening to the silence and waiting … on strength in weakness … on light in darkness … on a still, small voice in the chaos … that I began to heal. But let me back up a few years…

Life had dealt me a blow beyond blows taking out the very foundation I was building my life on. I was left with nothing, as nothing, in nothingness, full of nothing. But I couldn’t see that the nothingness within is really the silence that I desperately needed to befriend; the silence that I needed to make home, the hearth of my soul.

The pain from divorce, foreclosure on my home, loss of job, clinical depression among other things was devouring me as well as radiating from my pores. People that had been close could no longer be found. I had no one to turn to at a time that I needed a community of people just to stay alive. I desperately looked to the church for soul and heart support. I practiced the tradtional Christian way that I had been taught all of my life; the way that so many old saints in my church had attested to; the way that the preacher taught; the way that I had seen work all my life. I read scriptures, I prayed out loud and under my breath. I attended prayer meetings and listened to others speak out in prayer. I attended church services regularly. I made music in worship to God; singing in the choir and playing flugel in the worship band. But I found that the loneliness and emptiness, this creeping nothingness, was overtaking the landscape of my soul, heart, and mind. I had arrived at the Dark Night of the Soul that John of the Cross wrote about in the sixteenth century. Most of this, I discovered later because the confusion of my mind was too deep and dark for me to see much of anything.

In the summer of 2009, I was sent by my employer, Hope Network, to the Toronto Summer Institute on Inclusion, a conference on person centered planning for those that work with people with disabilities. We began every day with Shambhala Meditation practice for maybe 10 minutes. This practice of silence and meditation was a mindfulness practice that helped us to be fully present for learning throughout the week. It was an amazing experience. The conference was not just informational but it was transformational for me. It took a while to really understand why, though. The meditation that was led everyday by a Buddhist Priest was a very simple secular practice. By an act of grace, I had the opportunity to go to supper with this man, Alan Sloan. We talked for two hours about life and spirituality and people. Toward the end of the time together, he gently said to me, “There is a murkiness within your soul. You must let go of the hurt from your past and live in the present. Meditation is the only thing that will heal you.” I listened appreciatively and thoughtfully, smiling and nodding my head with furled brow; trying to grasp what he was saying to me. He said no more and we ended with a peaceful smile on his face and a puzzled look on my face. He knew it would take time for me to understand. He also knew that if I would remember this and contemplate this with discipline, a time would come that I would understand; not with my head, but with my heart.

What he said resonated within my soul as true but I am not so sure that I fully understand even today. As you can see, I am still trying to put this deep understanding into words three years later. But this I know. I have experienced tremendous healing of mind, heart, soul, and body. Today, I am a different person than I was at that time.

As you know, I was still writing, blogging my journey, my pain, my questions, and everything else that mattered. Low and behold, my sister Kay’s best friend Kay from high school connected with me over the internet about my blog. Ever since then, she and her teenage daughter have been meeting with me every couple of months to talk of the deeper things of life. She had been experiencing a deep longing for conversation at a deeper level. She could not find people in her community that could go beneath the surface to the things that really matter. As I expressed this spiritual journey I was on, trying to figure out where it was that I was headed, she said to me, “You sound like a Quaker. You should find a Quaker gathering.” Heck, I didn’t know Quakers still existed, let alone in my own community. And then to find out the they worship in silence!!! I desperately needed the spiritual discipline and practice of silence. This I knew. But I didn’t know where to turn to find it. The rest is history, er, or rather, is being written here in my blog and eventually… I believe, in a book.

There is a silence at the center of all things, including me. When I go there and listen and wait, I am overwhelmed by a Spirit of Peace, a Spirit of Love… the Spirit of God. And I carry away a peace within that passes all understanding. I carry it throughout the week. I carry it to my friendships and other relationships. I carry it to my work and into my home. Sure I lose my center, but it is never far away, and I always know what it takes to find it again. Listen and wait in silence.

I find that purpose, meaning, and truth for my life arises from this silence.
It is only out of the silence that the words arise to describe my journey.

Isn’t it interesting how full of noise and glitz, clamoring for our attention, our society is. Often our churches become full of the same, noise and glitz, clamoring for our attention. “Come to us, take a seat, receive our service, pay your dues” (tithe). But what I found is a still small voice waiting, in the silence, for my attention. It was saying, “Shut up, sit down, be quiet. Listen to the silence and wait to see what you might be given, unconditionally.” For me it has been healing, inspiration, purpose, and meaning. Silence, for me, has been transformative simply because I shifted my attention from myself to a deeper place within, my ground of being.

Life’s Rhythm Is Silence

“Life is not to be regarded as an uninterrupted flow of words which is finally silenced by death. Its rhythm develops in silence, comes to the surface in moments of necessary expression, returns to deeper silence, culminates in a final declaration, then ascends quietly into the silence of Heaven which resounds with unending praise.”

Thomas Merton
Source: No Man Is an Island