Silence is a challenging yet necessary aspect of the spiritual life. Finding interior silence can be difficult because we are always concerned with what is in front of us, even if it bores us,1 and finding exterior silence can be difficult because of the ease of connection and communication that we have in the world today.
Most works I have seen on exterior silence recommend turning off devices and taking a walk outside or just sitting alone in a room. I am going to take a different approach and point out that when we want to focus on a person or thing, we quiet what is around us in order to focus on that person or thing.
When we want to focus on a friend or other loved one, we quiet what is around us so we can pay attention to and converse with that friend or loved one. Human beings are creatures with bodies; as such, we use our bodies to converse. Sounds are made when we speak to each other, and our senses of hearing and sight are engaged during a conversation. But when we want to focus on God, we quiet what is around us so we can pay attention to and focus on God. Since God is not a creature, our conversation does not include exterior sounds from the world because our focus now is on the divine Persons, who speak in a way that is different from the way two creatures with bodies converse.
I believe that this type of silence is related to truth. What I mean here is that silence requires complete honesty; a silent person is present to both the exterior world and the interior self as is. If people try to impose their will on themselves or others based on what they want or desire in ideas rather than reality, then they are by definition not silent. Consider a conversation between friends where complete self-revealing and depth is put forth without worrying about how the other person perceives them: the honesty and truth of both parties brings depth to the conversation that enriches both. This is silence too, but of a different type than sitting there quietly. This silence occurs in the natural flow of the deep conversation of listening, being present to the other person, and the gift of self to the other by being truthful. When reflecting on these types of deep conversations, we see that the people involved are practicing both exterior and interior silence by listening to each other (presence) and being honest with each other about who they are interiorly.
Silence is meant to show you truth, and ultimately, reveal the Truth, and as St. John of the Cross said, the single Word spoken by God who is Jesus Christ. Silence is absolutely necessary for growth in the spiritual life because we become more present to Christ who is calling us by name.
We can go deeper with our silence by speaking with God more frequently. Too often we run to created things to satisfy what is really our infinite desire, and when we do make time for God, we resolve to pray a whole Rosary, read Scripture, and do all these other things. What ultimately happens is we take on more than we can handle, the trendy spiritual practice we are doing dies out, and then we feel like we are back at square one. In some sense, we feel like we failed God and ourselves.
Just like anything, the best place to start is small. Take one baby step forward each day working on the same thing. For example, you can practice silence by having one honest conversation with a friend or loved one and practice listening, being present, and being honest and truthful. You do not need to lock yourself in a room by yourself; we do not live in self-isolated bubble pods. We live in relation to being, and in that relation, we can practice silence to a greater and greater degree, until we silently turn our attention from being to He who makes beings be, and we find ourselves in closer union with He that we ought to love above all being, God Himself.
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Being bored is the absence of concern for what is in front of us, but in the same aspect of concern, despite its absence. ↩︎