November 2018 (Vol. XXXI, No. 10)

"Is there enough Silence for the Word to be heard?"

Dear Friends ~ There is perhaps a certain irony in collecting words that have been spoken and written about silence. Being human means navigating by way of language and we learn —some things anyway —by talking and listening, writing and reading. Yet the practice of contemplative silence seems more often to be about learning non -verbal ways to understand, to be present, to encounter; a time to sweep away the words in order to allow for the possibility of communion at a deeper level. How hard it is to just be, to open our hearts and minds, to create the space for experience beyond words.

saying nothing—
the guest, the host
the white chrysanthemum

~ Ryota Oshima

I remember years ago in Korea in the Peace Corps, how I felt the first time I partook of the daily culture of "just sitting" together with friends in informal tearooms in Seoul, without saying a word; at first I felt quite nervous and bored, but when I was able to relax my mind and just be, it was a refreshing communion... each moment's meeting of a person or even a flower is precious and fleeting, it is to be savored completely, perhaps best in silence.

~ from HAIKU MIND by Patricia Donegan

At first silence had seemed a deprivation, a symbol of an unwanted isolation. I had resented the solitude of my life and fought it. But gradually the enveloping quiet became a positive element, almost a presence, which settled comfortably and caressingly around me like a soft shawl. It seemed to hum, gently but melodiously, and to orchestrate the ideas that I was contending with, until they started to sing too, to vibrate and reveal an unexpected resonance. After a time I found that I could almost listen to the silence, which had a dimension all of its own...I discovered that I felt at home and alive in the silence. Silence itself had become my teacher.

~ from THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE by Karen Armstrong

silent retreat—
how loud
my heartbeat

~ Jeannie Martin in A CIRCLE OF BREATH

The notion of silence appears to unsettle—or puzzle—no small number of people of all walks of life...Something as "unproductive" as silence is not often taken seriously. The evaluation of silence differs from culture to culture. In the West, if you notice that someone is silent for a prolonged period of time, the tendency might be to ask, "are you all right?" Or the silence might be interpreted as a sign of unbalanced introversion or isolation or passive aggression. In India, they would say of the silent one, Ah muni! (Ah, there is a holy soul!)

~ from Elias Marechal in TEARS OF AN INNOCENT GOD

If I were a physician and I were allowed to prescribe one remedy for all the ills of the world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, how could one hear it with so much noise? Therefore, create silence!

~ Soren Kierkegaard

For God
To make love,
For the divine alchemy to work,
The Pitcher needs a still cup.

~ Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky in THE GIFT

The mind does nothing but talk, ask questions, search for meaning; the heart does not talk, does not ask questions, does not search for meaning. Silently, it moves toward God and surrenders. The heart is God's servant.

~ from SAINT FRANCIS by Nikos Kazantzakis

One day, as if I had lived alone for many years in the deep desert, I was taken by a stunning stillness, and without resistance I disappeared into Silence... It was my soul's homecoming, my heart's overflowing love, and my mind's eternal peace.

In Silence, I felt my core identity, my essential nature, as a unity-in-love with all creation. I experienced freedom, clarity, and joy as my true Self... This Self, this Silence belongs to all of us—it is who we are, it is what we are. If we are to experience and embody authentic peace and love, if we are going to bring true healing to our wildly violent and endangered world, we are going to have to learn to live within this essence which joins us together as brothers and sisters.

~ from THE HEALING POWER OF SILENCE by Robert Rabbin

To deliver oneself up, to hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hills, or sea, or desert; to sit still while the sun comes up over that land and fills its silences with light. To pray and work in the morning and to labor and rest in the afternoon, and to sit still again in meditation in the evening when night falls upon that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars. This is a true and special vocation. There are few who are willing to belong completely to such silence, to let it soak into their bones, to breathe nothing but silence, to feed on silence, and to turn the very substance of their life into a living and vigilant silence.

~ from THOUGHTS IN SOLITUDE by Thomas Merton

How much I long for the night to come again—
I am restless all afternoon...
How much I long for the huge stars to appear all
over the heavens,
And the black spaces between those stars...

~ from "Waiting for the Stars" by Robert Bly

The silence of prayer is the silence of listening.

~ Elizabeth O'Connor

Because I do not know words – tender, true,
and worthy enough to tread upon the pristine
sweep of your soul,
I give up on words
and offer you the integrity of silence,
the undefiled page,
and the wordless wonder of your own beloved self.

~ from a poem by Loretta Ross
 


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This email, which we hope brings inspiration to your in-box every month, is a bright young ray in Nan Merrill’s original vision to encourage her "Friends of Silence" with a simple Letter of quotes. Like the traditional paper version of the Friends of Silence Letter, it is free and the result of many hours of devoted labor and dedicated resources. Once a year we ask directly for your support. If the quotes whisper your inner spark to flame, if they bring you hope and a sense of belonging, if they brighten your lantern of soul in dark times, then please consider supporting Friends of Silence with a donation. And if you’ve already given, we are deeply grateful.

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