Silence - O so Golden!
On the front page of a recent edition of the Edmonton Journal (June 29, 2023), the title caption above a picture read, “A Calm, Quiet Place.” The picture was of what is called The Snoezelen Room, a room designed to help visitors “achieve self-regulation of their emotions.” The Snoezelen Room is intended to be a place of quiet, calm, and silence. The silence of the room contributes to the silence of the mind.
I noticed the other day that in my On Demand cable listings, there are 753 entries under the category of “Calm, Meditate, Relax.” Seven Hundred and Fifty-Three! Those 753 entries say a lot about how dis-regulated (frazzled might be a better word) we have become and how the need for quiet is becoming a serious mental health issue.
The gifts of silence have been long recognized in the spirituality of the Christian mystics.
One author notes that “Silence alone makes listening possible, through silence, we awaken to the experience of the indwelling God. Silence is a language of love, of depth, it is a language that is often much more eloquent, intense and communicative than a word” (Bianchi, 2002, p. 145).
In the late 14th or early 15th Century, Jean Gerson, then Chancellor at the University of Paris, wrote that the “main hiding place and silence should be within the soul,” but that this interior quiet required the support of external places like The Snoezelen Room. “It is true that to gain within oneself the secrecy and the silence of the soul, it is profitable to seek secrecy and silence outside of oneself” (Gerson, 1998, pp. 95-96).
This past June, The Studion School for Spiritual Direction hosted its annual spring silent retreat weekend at King’s Fold retreat center just West of Cochrane, Alberta. (King’s Fold is a remarkable and wonderful place, and I recommend you check out their website https://www.kingsfoldretreat.com). Fifteen participants gathered for a few days of much-needed silence, and at the end of the retreat, many shared how wonderful and calming the experience was and how they wanted to take some of it back with them to enjoy at home and in their everyday lives. We truly experienced the phrase we find in the Psalms, Be Still and Know that I am God.
The weekend gave us all an external structure so that they could cultivate internal peace.
Our next silent retreat will be held at Star of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert, AB, October 27 to 29, 2023.