Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Painting: Master Bedroom, by Andrew Wyeth)

From the translation of Psalm 4 in the Compline service of the Breviary of the Companions of St. Luke, OSB:

"Tremble; do not sin: Ponder on your bed and be still."

Every now and then, I find myself needing to observe "The Great Silence." In the monastic sense, keeping the Great Silence involves being silent from Compline to Matins, with the last words you speak being to God, and the first words spoken as the silence is broken to God.

I've personally found that keeping the Great Silence now and then is very rewarding to me...especially after a hectic, busy day. It's especially rewarding during Advent--a time when "watching" and "listening" become even more important in the church year.

If you've never kept silence, it seems daunting. I remember the first time I was preparing for my trip to the monastery. I had no idea what or when I would have to be silent, but I knew that there was going to be silence somewhere. So I sort of practiced by having a few "silent Saturday mornings"--just being quiet, reading, not using the Internet. I had expected it to feel like quitting cigarettes cold turkey. But instead, it was strangely pleasant.

What I've discovered, in occasionally keeping the Great Silence's not very silent. Silence, at least for me, seems to be neither dark nor empty. I've come to realize that when I temporarily remove verbal expression, another form of expression enters into play...the expression of my soul in ways that do not require words. I become more visually aware of my surroundings, and I find my mind actually racing with thoughts and concepts, but not at "high RPM's." It's like a transmission thrown into overdrive--the engine of our soul running fast, but smooth and unburdened.

Compare that with the stresses of a busy day where those transmissions in our mind are constantly being shifted from one gear to another as conversation starts, stops, interrupts, and we are often in a gear where we might be trying to "go fast" but the RPM's are much higher, unable to shift into that next gear smoothly. Anger and frustration grinds the gears as we shift, and sometimes reaches a point where we smell the smoke of burning transmission fluid.

I often dream vividly on the nights I keep the Great Silence, and oddly enough, in the dreams, many voices speak, but I mostly listen. What I often "say" in those dreams are a single thing, over and over--the thing that most matters.

Time becomes an odd player in my nights of silence. It does not seem to move at the "expected pace." Sometimes it moves more quickly, sometimes it seems to almost stand still. It's never the same in any two silent periods. Insight and creativity seem to spring forth from it. Silence is actually a very busy place for me, but a productive one. Not in terms of quantity, but in quality.

As Robert Persig said in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

"We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on "good" rather than "time" and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes."

So, this Advent, as we spend our time "watching and waiting," take some time to discover what a planned period of silence unlocks within you. You might be surprised how "not empty" it is!


I have no time to say what I want so I will only say that I love this.

And you, of course.

The mind calms too after a couple of days.

I am enjoying your posts. Thank you.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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