Friday, March 14, 2008

5. Practice silence, inner and outer.

Good morning! Here are Elaine's thoughts on silence.

What a topic for me -- me, the great talker -- assigned to speak about Practicing Silence! Guess God uses all sorts of means to teach us what we need to learn! Even having us be a teacher on the subject?!

It is a practice that I have known about and practiced and fallen away from lately -- even though I am single and my son is now gone. Even though I have lots of time to be silent.

Silent contemplation is easiest for me just before going to sleep -- But I suspect as Kh. Frederica mentioned, the middle of the night might be an excellent time since all is quiet around you --

To contemplate, I find a comfortable spot and close my eyes and say the Jesus Prayer repeatedly. This quiets my mind. When my mind wanders, as it always does, I bring it back by repeating the Jesus prayer. I have had some truly, spiritually, awesome experiences when I am able to allow myself to "rest in God's lap" without asking for anything or having any angst -- just being with Him.

One of my most amazing experiences was my trip to Saint Tikhon's monastery for a weekend retreat with the Orthodox Peace Fellowship. Having never been to a monastery before, I had no idea what to expect. I was very surprised at how many hours I had to spend in church services! (Bad thoughts!) So, I prayed for everyone I could think of, I looked at my watch! I prayed again! I looked at my watch, again. I counted the number of people in church! I prayed for everyone I knew and every thing I wanted again -- over and over again for hours! Then, as the secular world slipped farther and farther away, I realized that I was either going to have to leave (with the weekend only half over) or get into the swing by recognizing that looking at my watch served no purpose. I was not in control and I needed to let go and let someone else be in charge! I had to do the program!

After running out of prayers, I suddenly came to a place deep inside of me where I met God -- an overwhelming peace settled in. I went to a place that was joyful, peaceful and one that I didn't want to leave! I wanted to stay in the church longer! I believe I have glimpsed why the monastics choose that way of life!

I have since experienced wonderful times of peace that I actually refer to as "just being with God" Just "sitting in his lap" as his child! A very comforting place to be.

I have come to believe that one of Satan's tricks is to inundate us with noise -- To keep us distracted with televisions, radios, cell phones and even computers. This noise keeps us from hearing the small voice within. It prevents us from going "to be with God."

I also believe that we have (for lack of a better term) a trap door deep inside of each of us through which we enter to meet God and to experience the reality of the Universe -- We are conned into believing that God is outside of each of us -- But the scriptures tell us we must go inward to meet him. Since we look out into the world through our eyes, we think we find God outside of us. But I don't believe this is true. I believe we find him deep inside of us. I believe that only through quiet contemplation -- by stilling our mouths and our minds -- can we truly meet God. We have to go through our little trap door to get outside of ourselves and into the reality of the God and the universe --

It isn't hard, but it takes discipline to set aside the time and to continue our contemplation when our thoughts go in myriad directions -- I find myself feeling more alone in the noise than in silent contemplation -- I still talk a lot and always find temptations that draw me away, keep me from the glorious silent contemplation -- my contemplation where I am never alone.


Laura said...

This is wonderful Elaine, thank you. I have a really hard time quieting down with the Jesus prayer. My mind always wanders and it's very frustrating! Your post was very encouraging!

I stopped wearing a watch when I had the kids and have never gotten back into the habit...

Carla said...

Thank you for these insightful and encouraging words. That inner place of which you speak is a place where I long to discover. Maybe a weekend trip to a monastery would be a good way to get a taste!

Emily said...

One thing I noticed after having lived in Manhattan: I really crave silence. In fact, it kind of makes me crazy just to play music in the car -- even classical or Orthodox music. I need the silence to just think and be -- and if someone else is with me, to talk with them. Any other noise seems to disrupt that.

My husband, on the other hand, loves to blast loud music in the car. That relaxes him as much as the silence relaxes me. So, as in all other things, we compromise. :)

It's been hard for me, as a music teacher, to accept that even good music is sometimes too much for me -- that I need to give my spirit the silence it needs. I guess, like the bit about not "gobbling up" books, it's about moderation.

Debra Mattingly AACPL said...

Thanks so much, Elaine. I, too, like silence sometimes and no music or TV or anything else. That is hard for my husband to understand as well. :-)

I need to work on this inner silence, however.

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.