Those of you who have been in small groups with me in the past year have probably noted that I usually begin with a couple of minutes of silence. This “group meditation” serves a whole host of functions in the dynamics of groups. I usually frame the period of silence as a time to center and get away from the “monkey mind,” that constant inner chatter that comprises so much of our lives. Things that happened this past week, what I need to do in the coming one, what did so and so think about what I said to her just a minute ago – these are the distractions that prevent us from being present to one another and to our task of learning and growing together. Being more mindful of this present moment and what is happening right here, right now at least gets us all “in the room” so to speak, and if silence did nothing more than this it would be a worthwhile exercise. But I am also convinced that it is only out of silence that radical transformation is possible.
Mystics of many faith traditions have extolled the virtues of silence. When mystics refer to silence, I believe they are talking about more than just the absence of speech. Silence, in the sense of silencing the mind, is making our mind and spirit empty. Unless we are capable of doing this – of “emptying” ourselves of our inner chatter, of our preconceived notions, of our need to have every moment of our day filled with some distraction, of our uncomfortableness when there are silent moments in human encounters – then this present moment has no more promise than to be a mere repetition of what has gone on before. To be silent, to empty ourselves, is the only way we can make room for God, for the transcendent, for the other, for some new way of processing and being. It may feel a bit scary, because if this emptiness of silence is done well, we have no control over what may come in to fill it. Perhaps the introvert in the group, who processes more slowly but much more deeply, will find the space to share something profound and meaningful with the extroverts, who are caught a bit off balance by these “forced” moments of silence. Perhaps we may find the space in our own being to listen more deeply to ourselves and what our own still, small voice has been trying to say. Who knows what may come. These are just some of the possibilities. That’s what may make it a bit frightening for some. But that’s also what makes it an exciting adventure!
This may be a lot to expect from two minutes of so of silence. But if some radical transformation might be possible, even remotely, isn’t it worth it? I hope that some of you think so, and will come and be a part of Adult RE this year.