“You should aim for twenty minutes of silence a day.” A speaker in the church I attended last Sunday emphasized the important role silence can play in helping us become happier and healthier people. We lead busy lives constantly moving from one activity to another, and in the moments between our appointments and commitments we are engaged with all kinds of media. Many of us forget to make space for silence in our lives. The pastor shared her belief that we all need times of silence where we just ‘listen’ to our thoughts, to our emotions, and if we are people of faith, to God. She told us making room for absolute silence in our lives might not be as easy as we think. From her own experience she suggested we start off trying for two minutes of complete silence and then work our way up to her suggested twenty minutes.
During the six years we lived in Hong Kong we attended a church situated at the top of a mountain. It was called Tao Fong Shan or Mountain of the Christ Wind. Sometimes early Sunday morning I would hike up the mountain and spend time in the stone crypt beneath the church. Life in Hong Kong was hectic and it wasn’t easy to switch into neutral gear on the weekends. Visiting the quiet crypt forced me to be silent. I felt so peaceful on those mornings with sunlight streaming in through the stained glass window the only sound the wind and the birds. The underground crypt provided a refreshing cool sanctuary from the humid heat of the city and spending time there meditating and thinking rejuvenated me and gave me energy to face the busy week ahead.
Once a month at Tao Fong Shan we had Taize worship services, named after a monastic community in France and emulating their style of worship. Although there was some prayer, singing and reading of Scripture, for the majority of the service we sat in meditative silence. The first few times I attended the services I was slightly uncomfortable, but it wasn’t long before I began to look forward to those Sundays and the opportunity they provided to centre myself and rest.
I belong to a writers group and one of our members told us recently he only really began to write when he found a way to carve out time apart from his family in a quiet spot, so he could be alone with his thoughts, recharge his creative energy and find inspiration. Consultants who advise business clients on ways to make their employees more productive often mention the importance of providing time and space for solitary silence in the work place. Life coaches who help people looking for a more meaningful, fruitful life frequently talk to clients about the value of silence; time spent listening to their inner voice and figuring out exactly what it is they want to achieve in the future.
My husband was on a golfing holiday in Florida this past week and I was home alone. It would have been a perfect opportunity for me to experience some personal silent time, but instead I found myself turning on the television just to keep me company in our empty home. When I took a forty five minute drive on Saturday to visit a friend I had the radio on the whole way. As I walked to my various work commitments in Winnipeg I usually had my i-pod with me and was listening to music, a podcast, or my French lessons. Clearly I need to make time for silence in my life.
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