Conversing in silence

A hermit at my core, I don’t crave conversation for company sake. Truly, even when with the people I like best, I need to have a time out or twelve. So silence doesn’t bore, frighten, discomfit, or perplex me. I have spent hours without uttering a word, not listening to anything from a speaker, and alone inside my home’s cool walls. I often meditate for a hour or more, or in hours worth of small sessions. Even my animals aren’t chatty, doorbells or uniformed delivery driver knocks notwithstanding.

I come by this from DNA and domestication. A goodly portion of my early childhood was spent blissfully free range on my grandparents’ West Tennessee farm, in fields, up a tree, or hiding out in churches, anywhere my daddy was sure not to be. The DNA contribution — daddy’s too so far as I can tell — Aspergers.

So I fit into quiet like an acorn in its fractal cap, tightly, as silence spirals around me. I’m left looking like I’m being birthed reluctantly into the world of sound — pop — and I’m down on the ground among my fellows.

And then, fellow Mystic, I can talk, spinning out from the smallest remark into the most elaborate and growing layers of information, whether anyone meant to prompt me or not. I pop into the conversation like something falling on your head, unexpected and irksome.

I have, I think as a result of the meditation, become keenly aware of this dichotomy of hush-hush and yakety-yak. So I tried practicing a third way, restraint of speech.

I am horrible at it. Truly abysmal. I make rules for when, if, and how much I can speak. And as when following the rules I made for my participation in a college class, I’m stressed out. Thank the Spirit I can meditate. Because, at some point, I realized I can use what I’ve learned in silence, and not just to calm my nerves. I can listen.

Guided meditation, visualization, Contemplative practice, centering prayer, tonglen, and all of the ways of silence have opened my ears to a better way. I can translate my practice of listening for the Holy Spirit to listening to the spirit of others. Welcome in. Be in right attitude. Have an open heart. Seek connection. Listen to the space between the words. Invite an enlightening in my mind. Take in what others give up. All of the ways I listen to God also work for God’s children. I don’t need to count how many times I speak vs how many times everyone else does. I just need to open myself to listening for a message and a connection with Christ in others.

Once again, I thought I was doing one thing and God was doing another.


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