Thank you for your patience with my online silence! (Thank you also for your prayers for my retreat. It was amazing, and I hope to post more about it soon.)
Silence has been part of my life ever since I entered the convent, but the deeper silence of a retreat is unique. During the month of October, I had the wonderful experience of making the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius at Campion Renewal Center in Weston, MA. This was my first experience of silence for an entire month,* but I have made many eight-day retreats. In general, retreat silence:
- deepens my prayer
- enhances a spirit of recollection
- limits distractions
- focuses me on my relationship with God and what’s important in my life
- helps me to listen more deeply to the Scripture passages I pray with every day
- increases awareness of my thoughts and feelings
- helps me discern how the Holy Spirit is working within me…
- …and more!
One of our characteristics as writers is to constantly listen. Whether we need to be attentive to an interviewee or our own “first thoughts” or feelings about a situation, listening is key. Silence gives us the space to listen more deeply, to make connections, to become aware of our unique insights that spring from our life experience. Deeper listening, making connections, awareness, insights and life experience are some of the essential ingredients of creativity.
Returning after a month of silence to the mission and writing that I am so passionate about, I sense that my experience of silence will enrich my life, my writing, my conversations, my relationships with others. I treasure much more the silence that is already part of my life.
If we don’t have a time of silence built into our day or week, we may be surprised to find how helpful it can be to the writing life, as well as our life of faith. (The Message from the recent Synod on the New Evangelization also refers to silence as important for receiving the Word of God, and this was really true for me on retreat!) I try to “cushion” both my prayer time and my writing time with silence, but being out in nature is another way that I seek out silence. Here are a few little ways I use to add silence to my life:
- take a walk or go for a run (without listening to music or a podcast)
- turn off the cell phone for an hour
- get up a few minutes early and watch the sunrise or enjoy a quiet cup of coffee (or you can try staying up a few minutes later to stargaze)
- take a weekly “quiet night” at home that is also TV- and/or internet-free
- turn the radio off when driving in the car
What role does silence play in your writing life? In your life of prayer? If you have a moment, share your ideas about building in times for silence in our everyday lives. Especially if you have children, please share what you do to gain some quiet moments–what works for you?
*For those who are wondering, the silence is not absolute. During the Spiritual Exercises that I made, retreatants spoke daily to their retreat director, but avoided speaking otherwise unless necessary. Usually, the retreatant takes a couple of “breaks” during the month where they can speak more freely. I had two afternoon “breaks” during the month.