December 11 2017

By: Jackie Hook
Monday, December 11, 2017

I continue with my thoughts about Silence. What Does It Teach Us?

In the Christian tradition, John of the Cross said, “Silence is God’s first language.” There is a power to silence. In my roles as a celebrant and spiritual director, I sit with people to hear the stories of their lost loved ones’ lives as we create an honoring ritual for them. I sit with others and hear them processing their journeys through grief after loss, sharing their spiritual life and longings, and musings about aging. I watch them intently as they share. At those times when there is quiet, it is very apparent when it is silence with significant meaning, not just a pause of not knowing what to say next. We can sit in that silence for some time. When they eventually turn their gaze towards me, I ask the next question. These people are not even aware of how long we’ve been in silence. Much is going on for them.

Parker Palmer, a writer, speaker, and activist, also appreciates the power of silence. In his work to create Circles of Trust -- safe gatherings for sharing -- one of his touchstones is, “Trust and learn from the silence. Silence is a gift in our noisy world, and a way of knowing in itself. Treat silence as a member of the group. After someone has spoken, take time to reflect without immediately filling the space with words.”

I have come to love silence – it feels spacious, free, peaceful, healing and loving. However, this was not always the case.  I remember the silence of first living alone after college – I often filled it with background noise. Not today. Now I leave it as it is, silent, and I’m drawn to it.

(First printed in the 2017 Fall Issue of Centered Magazine)

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