Listening to silence

What would you hear if you sat in silence?

I just started reading Thirty Days: on retreat with the exercises of St Ignatius , having finally schlepped over to the Boston Public Library’s central branch to borrow a copy. I figured I’d read it and then come up with something to say, but barely 20 pages I was so moved that I knew the reflection couldn’t wait.


My first and only silent retreat was now ten and a half years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday: the brilliance of the Maine waters in the crisp winter air, my disappointment with a spiritual director who I felt gave me no direction, the table where I played with colored pencils for hours, and the beach where I went by myself to sing to the sea, having realized that even in silence I couldn’t last long without song.

Most importantly I remember the cracking open of who I really was in the silence. After a few days of not trying to impress anyone with my wit or my intellect, I found myself being myself rather than acting like myself. I was a senior in college, wrapping up four years in close quarters with others, four years of trying to find out who I was but always seeing my reflection in the eyes of my companions.

There I was in the silence, finally, really me.

I also found consolation and peace, the repair of various little hurts and of the larger overarching pain of being an adolescent and young adult. It was a vague peace. At the time I knew that the knowledge of this peace would sustain me, even when peace felt very far away. The memory has indeed comforted me.

I still seek silence often, though sometimes I fear it because I don’t want to hear the voice that might emerge. When I first did the nineteenth annotation I was in a terrible situation, and the only way out was a road I didn’t want to take. The very first night of sitting quietly in prayer the voice told me to go down that road. So I listened, even though I’d resisted.

Once you hear, you can’t say no, which is why sometimes I stay noisy.

The last few days I have been in the Berkshires, where stars shine brighter in a darker sky and the silence has music in it. Again I’ve found myself: a person I want to be, a person I like. When I discover the realest me there is less fear, and God can speak, and I can listen.

What would you hear if you sat in silence?

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13 Responses to Listening to silence

  1. Pingback: Seven Quick Takes, Volume 7 | Felice mi fa

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  3. Val says:

    I found you in my Facebook feed and and the video in my blog feed this afternoon, and thought — wait..I know that name… πŸ™‚

    Like…you, actually you, in video form from Loyola Press.

    I “get” what you have to say on silence — being yourself in silence, or being noisy to not hear. I’m pretty noisy and personable for an introvert, but do relish silence. The silence and solitude is what led my friend to give me the moniker “urban monastic.”

    I’ve been *silenter* than usual lately.

    Thanks for this, and the fun video.

    • felicemifa says:

      “Urban monastic” – that sounds like a delightful way to live! Thanks for your thoughts and the share.

      • Val says:

        It can be — it puts the Hollywood Bowl and many beautiful things about Los Angeles in view — but “urban” has real poverty and real problems. What I keep off my blogs for brokenness, poverty, sadness, desperation could fill volumes. There is a point at which mention of such things serves no one and is voyeuristic. Tonight it will be the Verdi Requiem at the Hollywood Bowl (perhaps with a new adventure aside from the 200 lbs. man sobbing through the Josh Groban concert last month). I am a real person with real stories, presently still reeling from the very real death of a very dear friend. Urban Monastic is all well and good until the police come knocking on your door at 7:00 AM because someone was stabbed in the alley behind your building.

  4. Val says:

    Reblogged this on St. Val the Eccentric and commented:
    A very worthy read. I found the Loyola Press video in my feed this morning.

  5. Haha, Val: “I’m pretty noisy and personable for an introvert…” πŸ™‚

    So glad to have found your blog too, Margaret. πŸ™‚

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