Imagine what the world would be like if we all realised that, in this age of Information, real inspiration comes in times of silent reflection - a sources of direction, and correction, for ourselves and for the world. In silent reflection lies the potential to create a calmer, more peaceful, more just world.
You can be part of the global community of those who find strength in silent reflection. Commit to taking time out each day to listen to that inner voice--the still, small voice of calm. Begin with 10 minutes. Extend it to 20 minutes, half an hour or an hour each day as you find the need to do so. Write down your thoughts as they come to you, as an aide memoire. Then act on them as you are led to do so. Put right anything that you feel may be wrong in your life. Allow the inner voice of conscience to speak to you. Then see where the journey will lead you. Make silent reflection a daily practice, at dawn, at dusk, any time during the day. The changes it brings may be more far reaching than you imagine.
‘Silence allows the muddy waters of our minds to clear’ – Italian poet Rosa Bellino
‘Silence is the great friend of the soul.... make space for it so that it may begin to work for you’ – John O’Donohue, writing in Anam Cara--spiritual wisdom from the Celtic world
‘In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness’ – Mahatma Gandhi
‘How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given’ – Phillips Brooks
‘Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!’ – John Greenleaf Whittier
‘There is an interior dimension to silence, a sort of stillness of heart and mind which is not a void but a rich space.... silence is the place, the focus, for a radical encounter with the divine.... Chosen silence can be creative and generate self-knowledge, integration and profound joy.... and when it works a stream of bubbles, bubbles of joy, float up around you and rise ahead of you towards some bright surface you cannot yet see clearly’ – Sara Maitland, writing in A Book of Silence
‘I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us...if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do.’ – Christopher Reeve
'Silence is the gateway to the soul and the soul is the gateway to God.... The goal of the silence is to achieve purity of heart.’ – Fr Christopher Jamison in the BBC TV series The Big Silence (2010)
'Silence unveils deeper truths... Reverent silence is not a luxury. Indeed the busier we are, the more indispensable it becomes... From the silence wisdom is born.' – Monsignor Roderick Strange, Rector of the Pontifical Beda College, Rome, writing in the Credo column, The Times, 15 January 2011
'Spacious silence allows a spacious God. This is one good thing that silence and waiting has taught me: our lives are always useable by God. We need not always be effective, but only transparent and vulnerable. Then we are instruments, not matter what we do. Silence is the ability to trust that God is acting, teaching, and using me--even before I perform or after my seeming failures. Silence is the necessary space around things that allows them to develop and flourish without my pushing.' – Richard Rohr, Franciscan friar and author, founding director of the Centre for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
‘For many around the world, the daily time of silent reflection has become an anchor, and a springboard to action, over the years’ – Michael Smith, writing in The Sound of Silence
Each person's journey is unique and there is no simple mechanism which can be prescribed for helping people bring change. Nevertheless IofC offers some tools which can help in the process.
Take a good hard look in the mirror
Doing a 'moral inventory' of our lives can be surprisingly helpful at revealing parts of our nature that we may not have been aware of. Take as guides, the universal moral values of absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love.
Honesty - not deceiving others or ourselves Purity - freedom from being controlled by our desires or our fears and insecurities. Unselfishness - a commitment to fairness and justice and a willingness to share. Love - a quality of the heart which lies at the root of all the core values. A readiness to let go of hatred and jealousy. A commitment to forgiveness.
Why absolute? Because our nature is to always compare ourselves with other people in ways which just reinforce the beliefs we already have about ourselves. So, for example, we might say 'I am more honest than most people' or 'I am very selfish compared to my mother'. The point about these absolute values is that everyone falls short. They are like the North Star – nobody will ever reach it, but it can guide us on our way.
Take enough time to do this inventory – about an hour might be a good starting point, working alone in silence. And take something to write down the insights and revelations you gain. Look at each value in turn: Am I absolutely honest? When was the last time I deceived someone? What about my tax statements? Do I always pay what I should for the services I use? Do I always do the things I say I will do? Do I say what I really believe? How trustworthy am I?
Nobody need see what you write, so it is a question of how honest you can be with yourself. Don't forget to include the positives as well. You can celebrate the times when you have been honest, pure, unselfish or loving.
Act on what you find
At the end of this process, you should have some fresh insights into your own nature. Perhaps you are hearing your conscience more clearly than before. It is important now to act on what you find. Maybe it is time to return that book you 'borrowed' years ago, time to pay back any money you owe. Perhaps there are people you have hurt who you need to apologize to. Maybe you have deceived people and need, now, to tell them the truth.
Are there people you need to forgive? Forgiveness is a process that can take time, but a willingness to go down this path is an important first step. Being honest about your own mistakes can help, as can stepping into another's shoes and trying to see things from their perspective while carrying their stresses and burdens. Often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Talking things over and praying with a trusted friend can help.