As part of the training program in Spiritual Direction we are required in each five day residency to hold the central 24 hours in silence. It is a time when we can slow down from the world we left at home, assimilate the learning from the past two days, rest, meet with our Creator without interruption of rushing and begin the work of preparing to take the steps that will be required when we leave the atmosphere of learning and move into the place of practice.
When I say silent retreat to people they often choke on the thought and understandably. We have so little silence in our lives. I don’t think that I ever really notice how much noise there is in the world until I am forced to practice silence.
Try it. Not for a long time just for a moment right now. Stop reading and typing and talking. Turn off the TV and just listen to noise around you. For myself in that moment I heard an airplane overhead. There were some doors opening and closing and some feet moving on carpet. There is a hum in the computer and even though the window is shut, I can hear the wind through the big oak outside.
Silence can be a frightening thing for the lonely. It can be a dark place for those who are grieving. It can stir memories of fear and even horror.
My first silent retreat was about five years ago and for the first few hours I thought I might go mad. I didn’t know what to do with myself. The silence seemed so much bigger than any noise. The experience helped move me into a new phase in my life.
Now I move toward silence more easily. It has become a bit of a friend. Perhaps it has always been my friend. As an only child I knew much silence and the best moments of my childhood were spent with the wind and spray pushing against my face while I stood alone on the lake bank or wading to my ankles in the still water along the shore, feeling the ripples of sand under my feet on the summer sandbars.
Silence is a time when it easier to hear the voice of the Spirit. That still small voice that called the prophets, that gave wisdom of ages to the mystics and still bestows ancient truth on a modern world which seldom bends to hear it.
So for the next 24 hours I will dwell in silence and listen for the voice of my Creator, my Redeemer, my Friend.
There are usually two silent retreat weekends offered at Five Oaks each year and there is also accommodation for your own silent retreat at the Centre. To find our more visit their website. If you know of other places where silent retreat is available please begin a list.