The Silence Challenge

Our world is full of noise.

The rush of traffic, the hum of machinery, the buzz of mobile technology, the chatter of TV, the pulse of music, the drone of the aircraft, the commotion of people.

Some of this noise is beautiful.  All of it drowns out silence.

“The glory of God always shows itself in an empty space… We have to make a home for the Word to come and dwell among us, a space for God to be.”

(From a lecture given by a Dominican Abbot to the World Congress of Benedictine Abbots, in Rome in September 2000)

Here at Space to Breathe we are planning a re-launch and everything tells us that it must be big, brash, bold and outspoken.  There’s time for that always, but then there is the power of silence.  So we are going to commit to a silent challenge …

  • 5 minutes a day to be silent and to simply see what happens
  • To do this every day for one month
  • To share our experiences online here and @space2breathe
  • To invite others from all walks of life to do the same whether they consider themselves spiritual or not

Silence has been a Christian tradition for some time, particularly in the Monastic life, where it is a way of dedicating yourself to God – it becomes a jewel when you consider the space it gives to Him. The life of a monk or nun has meaning ‘because of an absence of progression, which points to God as the end and goal.’ The Rule of St Benedict for example ‘offers a sort of hollow centre’, an empty space.

An early church Bishop called Iraneous spoke of the concept of ‘apavia’ which means ‘roadlessness’. In essence he was saying that God could only come if we gave ourselves over to complete trust in His direction rather than our own if we made space for Him.

In today’s individualistic, consummerist culture, it’s not so much ‘roadlessness’ that’s championed but rather a ‘roadfulness’. Our lives are frequented by multiple roads. The road to self fulfilment, the road to the forefront of our career, the road to ‘make it’ in this world, that focuses on the next job or promotion to gain status and wealth. The road of consummerism that says I have to purchase to be happy.  This ‘roadfulness’ puts the focus on us as the centre of our lives. It says the purpose of my life is to go somewhere. As long as we are competing to be the centre there is no space for God.

What if we were to let go of the centre ?

What if we adopted Iraneous’ ‘roadlessness’ and allowed ourselves to be dependant on God?  Allowing ourselves to not be driven by those around us but to be content?

What if we were to explore ourselves in this silence?  How we can be more fully who we’ve been made to be?

It is when we truly travel light – laying down our ambitions and agendas that we make ourselves available and create space …. for God, for each other, for our world and for ourselves.

“What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.”

St John of the Cross

The availability given to God through silence is about finding a rhythm of breathing… creating voids, empty spaces in our lives, a place for God to be, a space for Him to move. To do this we need to let go of our business and our agendas and be open to invitations and interruptions. These little details can be a way of spiritual openness … a way of allowing God to be present with us and to speak.

Over the next few weeks we’ll blog and tweet some ideas and thoughts about silence in all walks of life.  Whether you consider yourself spiritual or not, why not give it a go?

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