Friday, June 07, 2013

Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart

During the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about issues of contemplation and silence.  Today I took a retreat morning and decided to read Nurturing Silence in a Noisy Heart by Wayne Oates.

Since the version I have was written in 1979 the book has some funny moments where for example the author, talking about being on a houseboat in the river says, “… to discover a place of privacy, … where telephones cannot reach you, …” Unfortunately, that ship has sailed; telephones reach us all the time, in every place. Which is why, more than ever I need books like this one and others who call me to places where I can be alone in silence and stillness.

Yet, not everyone is comfortable with silence. Oates quotes Blaise Pascal, “The eternal silence of the infinite spaces terrifies me.” Pascal’s comment makes me ask, “Why?” what are humans so afraid of in silence? Oates does a great job unpacking some of the issues and distractions that cause people to be nervous about silence. Dr. Oates was Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Louisville School of Medicine so he knows from experience about what makes people tick.

Because I’m an introvert, I’m drawn to silence and stillness. I need this space to recharge my batteries throughout the day. I know quite clearly when I’m not nurturing my soul in this way.  Yet even though I crave silence, I agree with Oates that silence is something, “you hunt for… that calls for investment and a sense of adventure.” I love that image, pursuing silence like stalking a timid animal, seeking the adventure of nurturing space.

Toward the end of the book, Oates provides a helpful checklist for creating space for silence. To see them click here: 

Finally, Oates states, “Silence is not just not talking. Silence is a discipline of choosing what to say and to what to listen.” This is the key to nurturing silence in the midst of a busy day. For me, I do need extended times away to recharge, but I can also nurture times throughout the day where I can be discerning in what I listen to and to whom I speak. Oates goes on to say, “If you limit what you say to what is true, if you limit yourself to what can be spoken in love, then you will have much less to say. What you do say, though, will have a hundred times more influence.”

I purpose anew to speak what is true with love.