A long, long time ago I took guitar lessons from a woman named Mrs. Brown. Once a week I would sit in her studio at the Weston Conservatory in Elkhart, Indiana and dutifully plunk out whatever series of notes I was supposed to have practiced that week. After what seemed like years of playing the same dull exercises over and over again, Mrs. Brown offered me a real piece of music to learn for an upcoming recital. The piece was “Around the World in Eighty Days” by Victor Young. I hated it. So rather than learning that dreary little piece of music, I dug out a Simon and Garfunkel music book that was around the house (my dad was a choir director, so there where always a lot of songbooks around the house) and learned to play another dreary little song that was more to my liking. “Hello darkness, my old friend,/I’ve come to talk with you again….” Much more in tune with my late 60s sensibility. When I played “The Sound of Silence” for Mrs. Brown the following week, she frowned and said, “We don’t play that kind of music around here.” I didn’t take lessons from Mrs. Brown for much longer. And I still can’t listen to “Around the World in Eighty Days” without thinking of her. At any rate, this week’s small group ministry session based on resources from SpiritualityandPractice.com is all about the spiritual practice of Silence. Not the overwrought silence in Paul Simon’s song, but the real deal. The kind of silence from which that voice “still and small” speaks.
There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden, or even your bathtub.
— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross quoted in Awakening to the Sacred by Lama Surya Das
This exercise, “Entering the Silence,” is based upon a practice of the Seneca (Native American) nation. The imagery is adapted from the words of Twylah Nitsch:
Close your eyes. Breathe out three times.
Listen and hear the Silence . . . Listen and see the Silence . . . Listen and taste the Silence . . . Listen and smell the Silence.
Breathe out one time. Listen and embrace the Silence.
When you are finished, open your eyes.
Questions: Have you ever found it was necessary to go away just to escape the noise of the modern world? Where did you go and what kind of silence did you encounter?
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Don’t look for meaning in the words. Listen to the silences.
— Samuel Beckett quoted in Forty Days of Solitude by Doris Grumbach
To Practice This Thought: Noting the silences in your conversations with others, vow to use silence as a bridge rather than as a barrier.
For a PDF version of this small group ministry session, click here: Silence.
For more information on small group ministry, visit the UU Small Group Ministry Network.