Rebecca Criswell, participant in The Good Life Redefined workshop in Indianola was inspired to practice contemplative silence. Read below how the action she pledged is adding more meaning and balance to her life.
At the February 5th “Good Life Redefined” workshop we were asked to write a personal action plan. The purpose of the action plan is to address how we were going to create more meaning and joy in our lives, and to purchase more mindfully in order to focus on The truly Good Life as we each defined for ourselves.
One of the suggested steps was to protect ourselves from advertising. I chose to take a step even further to protect myself from too much news, too much ringing of my phone, in order to create more meaningful space in my life – with a surprising result.
I decided to spend time in deep silence at the beginning and at the conclusion of my day. I felt a need to cleanse and de-clutter my inner environment in order to help create a healthier shared environment.
For me this need grew in sharp proportion to the time I was spending on the news. The first and last thing I would do each day was tune in the news. And I would also tune it in whenever, wherever and however I could throughout the day. I was becoming a news junkie. I suffered from a morbid fascination with the news. I would find myself waiting to learn what was the most recent calamity, potential crisis, bone of contention, global threat, or new and deepening fissure in human relations that would surely result in cataclysmic destruction. I found myself in a constant state of agitation, hyper-vigilance, chronic anxiety, and moral outrage. Phrases like “take a stand” and “the best defense is a good offense” ran through my mind and fell from my tongue like a call to arms. Where, I cried, is justice?
And yet, in the midst of all this clamor and clanking of battle armor, deep inside I have been craving peace. After all, I think, do not peace and justice walk hand-in-hand? So if I am to contribute to justice I must find peace. And I must find the peace the world cannot give. This led me to the need of inner silence, to simply “Be still and know that I am God.”
Since the workshop I have been fairly disciplined in this practice of daily silence. In truth, it was part of my daily routine (in the form of centering prayer) for some time even before the workshop, but lately I have been more diligent and have coupled it with a determined practice to reduce the amount of time I spend taking in news from all forms of media and personal interactions. The practice of silence is beginning to permeate more of my day.
This shows up in various ways. I don’t have to be in constant connection with the rest of the world. So not only can I now begin and end my day without my dose of the latest breaking news, I can and do leave my phone off for extended periods of time. Additionally, I used to have something on for background noise and was often uncomfortable with quiet, but that is not so true now.
I realize that I was uncomfortable with silence, as though I needed something going on around me in order to feel connected. Yet silence is giving me the opportunity to be comfortable with my own company and in so doing allowing me a deeper sense of connection. This in turn seems to be leading me to a place of greater meaning and balance. Now when I tune into the news, which I still do, I am beginning to listen on a different level – a level that allows me to better hear views that are different than my own and strive for some understanding instead of judgment. I hope I can continue down this road (it may well be 2 steps forward and 1 step back) because I want to find ways to build bridges instead of drawing battle lines. Silence is life affirming.
The words of St. Theresa of Calcutta (Mother Theresa) come to mind: ” We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls.”