So far I’ve spent two hours in silence, and have had two very different experiences. I decided to try and jump in without over-thinking it. Silence is something I’ve tried to keep myself relatively acclimated to. When I was younger, I was an activist for Ad Busters, an organization that tries to undo the damage that commercials wreak upon our sub-conscious. One of the statistics they published is that the average American takes in 3,000-5,000 commercials a day. That number always frightened me, and I got in the habit of muting my TV during commercials or just turning it off. All of that to say, I’ve been a little more comfortable with silence than most.
I guess as far as the actual practice of being silent goes, really it all boils down to whatever works for you. I find that it helps keep me focused if there’s something telling me that I’m not just hanging out in an empty room. I’ve taken to turning the lights out and keeping some candles around. They keep me aware of the fact that there’s more going on than just sitting.
On my first night, the candles proved to be a distraction. At that particular point I was having no problem keeping my mind focused, but I’d stare into the candles and go completely blank. I found that sitting with my back to them was really effective. On my second attempt, my mind seemed a lot more scattered. I spent twenty minutes wrestling with my inner monologue, trying to get it to stop thinking of song lyrics or what I would write here. Finally, I happened to glance at the candles and realized that since I needed my mind to be more blank, turning around wasn’t a bad idea. Lo and behold, giving myself a focal point was enough to keep the little voice in check. I guess the bottom line with the practice portion is that no matter what, you need to do whatever works for you in that moment.
As far as results go… My first night was really good. In fact, it was everything I could hope for in terms of kicking off a new spiritual regimen without any kind of prior practice or preparation. My mind got quiet relatively quickly, and I opened myself up to receive whatever may be given. After a few minutes, I felt the urge to initiate communication. I know I’m supposed to be silent, but speaking out loud helps me stay focused. So I whispered. I apologized to God for the amount of time I spent trying to ignore him. I asked him to help me with this whole process, and that if he wanted to talk, I was listening. And, a little while later, I believe he spoke.
You’d think that would have me pumped to go in and do it again the next night, but that wasn’t quite the case. I had been busy all day, my mind going a thousand miles a minute. When I finally closed the door, ready to be silent, the silence itself was a distraction. My mind wouldn’t slow down. As I mentioned above, song lyrics, thoughts of this post, things I needed to do still, all of these things floated through my head. Eventually I turned around and laid on my stomach with my face very near the candle. (I sat that way to ensure I didn’t fall asleep… Nothing like the fear of catching your hair on fire to keep you alert.) That… helped. It kept my mind quiet and I again felt as though I was listening. I spent the majority of the hour that way, but in the end, no fireworks. And that’s okay.
I didn’t go into this whole process with the idea that God would blow my socks off with a new epiphany every time I decided I wanted another. Tonight, I’ll go back in there and keep my ears open. Whether or not anything gets said is out of my hands.