Friday, May 8, 2009

What becomes of silence


For the past 3 falls,  I've attended a weekend retreat, part of which is spent in silence.  Someone once described the practice as "fasting from words." 

Being silent while alone is one thing; being silent among others is quite another. We often eat 3 meals together without speaking a word. It's quite humbling, really. Where do you put your eyes when you're not listening to another person speak? How do you request salt and pepper, for example, without making a scene and pointing?

But it works. Somehow it always works. And when the time comes to break our word fast, we do so gently, softly, our ears exquisitely atuned to the sounds of each others' slippered footsteps, the clink of teacups and saucers, the shooshing of pine needles brushed by the breeze.

Usually, I relish this silence, fold myself into it, and emerge on the other side peaceful and refreshed.

It wasn't so easy this last time. I was antsy, awkward, and unable to surrender to the quiet. My efforts to meditate left me frustrated. Eventually, I removed myself from the group, climbed into bed, and tried to read something that would finally create the right mood. But soon I was swept into the undertow of a long afternoon nap, and to my surprise, when I woke up, I realized that I had dreamt for the first time in months and could even remember it. After the good rest, I found myself able to effortlessly settle into the silence and rejoin the group.

From this experience I learned that I cannot force peace of mind; it finds me instead, and usually when I stop trying so hard. A friend illustrates the folly of too much effort by clenching his fists and jaws while saying, "I'm letting go as hard as I can!" It always makes me laugh.

Before we went our separate ways during this last retreat, we were asked to write a prayer that captured what we wanted to carry with us throughout the year.

This is what I wrote--and what I read each night before I go to sleep:

I will rest.
I will dream.
I will not try to force answers or solutions.
I will lean into the God of my understanding tenderly
and listen to God's whispers 
and see God's images
with my heart, mind, body, and soul.
I will trust who God intends me to be.

Recently, I shared the prayer with a friend, who asked me to explain what I meant by "lean into God." It wasn't easy to find the words. But that same day I found at a thrift store a kitschy little figurine that captured the meaning perfectly. 

A small childlike figure stands at an angle, supported by a large cupped hand. The expression on her face is one of  calm and trust, perhaps even  grace.

If I'm very quiet and listen lightly, sometimes I know exactly what she feels. I did today.

Blessings . . .

Image by Himalayan Trails

9 comments:

Gaston Studio said...

What a beautiful post and poem! I love the leaning into God and could picture this being done even before you described the figurine, so maybe I'm 'getting it' after all.

I also love the photo. Where was it taken? Is the red part clay soil? Reminds me a bit of north Georgia except for the trees.

Rudee said...

Silence is golden. The retreat sounds as though it would be rejuvenating for the soul. I love the prayer.

Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner said...

For some reason I still cannot write my own blog, but I cherish reading yours every day. This prayer will become part of my routine.

Pyzahn said...

Quite lovely, Kathleen. There is always such a sweetness and knowing in your words.

Do you ever read the comic strip "Rose is Rose"? She has a Let It Be tree. And whenever she needs an emotional retreat, she leans on her tree. Love that Rose.

In response to my prayer posting, one of my blog buddies responded that she started writing her own prayer every week. It seemed a great way to keep prayer fresh, less auto-pilot, more timely. I wrote my first one rather stream of conscious and it was a wonderful process. I love looking at it every morning to keep the purpose in my head/heart and I feel good about having created my own dialog.

Please don't go silent with your blogging!

Joanna said...

A beautiful photo, a beautiful post, a beautiful poem. Thank you.

Alex the Girl said...

You've put the peace of the retreat into your post. Lovely photo as well. I'd love to walk down that path, but only if there are no bears there.

Erin Davis said...

...lean into the God of my understanding...
I love that. It paints a perfect picture. Thanks for this.

Kathleen said...

Jane--I always suspected you were a higher-evolved human being! The photo was taken in the Himalayas. Check out the the link on the credit line. He's got some other great shots!

Rudee--So glad you liked the prayer. Felt a little personal putting it out there, but that's what my gut said to do. And I do follow my gut; it tends to lead the way (for the rest of my bod!)

Jennifer--Keep leaning. You won't fall, promise. ~ ;^)

Pyzahn--I'll have to check out Rose is Rose. What a grand idea--a Let it Be Tree...I have a special box into which goes scraps of paper on which I've written things I simply have to let go. It helps. Would you consider sharing one of your prayers sometimes? No pressure if it's too personal. I just love to see how other people "connect." If I ever go "silent" on my blog, I suspect the visual aspect will most definitely stock around! Thanks for your kind works and constant support.

Alex--Thank you for saying that. It was one of those nights when I just sat down to a blank screen and let the words come sailing through. God never fails to give me a first draft! (I'll take a bear over a frog any ole day--they're so dog like, at least in appearance. But I understand your concern. My sons always bring bear spray for their sister whenever we go on vakay. Which is so funny, b/c she's the fiercest of us all!)

Erin--Thank you for your kind words. You have a remarkable ability to paint with your words, so I'm most honored.

Peace to each of you!

Joycee said...

Isn't this the truth, we try to force the hand of God to hurry up and do it our way. I need to lean a lot more, hard for me.
joy c. at grannymountain

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