When all things lay in the midst of silence then leapt there down into me from on high, from the royal throne, a secret word.
—Wisdom of Solomon 18:14
Last week I had the privilege of going on silent retreat for a few days. I stay in the Mary Hermitage, nestled in the woods of Holy Wisdom Monastery. Other than walking over to the main building to share in worship, I am enveloped in silence. Well, sort of anyway. The truth is, my mind continues to go a million miles a minute, springing from one random stream of thought to another despite my best intentions. Silence shmilence. I might have stopped incoming distractions, but the interior ones raced along unhindered, gleefully filling the space I had so carefully created.
And so for periods of time, I engage in the spiritual practice of meditation or centering prayer, being intentional about detaching from my thoughts, allowing them to race along their merry way without either clinging to them nor rejecting them—which amounts to the same thing. Most of the time it’s a colossal failure, as I repeatedly realize I’m following the thought to wherever it leads me rather than noticing it pass me by. But every once in a sweet while I drop into a deep and endless stillness. God-with-us within my deepest self. Beneath the running commentary is my grounding, the ground of all being. Breathtaking. Life giving. Magnificent. Holy.
You’d think I’d stay there, but I don’t. My thoughts are off again, luring me down rabbit hole mazes, checking behind to be sure I’m following. And so it is, sometimes we are gifted with this deeper awareness, this sense of fullness and joy. It can be fleeting, yet the sense of it, the knowing of it, endures. And permeates how I see and live all my other moments. I know for certain you don’t have to be on silent retreat to receive this gift of intimate grace—it can come while lying on your back watching the clouds, or dissolving in laughter with ones dear to you, or when you know you are loved, truly loved, warts and all. It is always a gift, given in love.
It is God entreating us:
listen to me
for just a moment
let me remind you
who you are
whose you are
within, your source
you and I
that you may live and
The day my retreat ended, I merged back into the lively flow of home and work and life—full and precious—but not terribly silent most of the time. Why do I go on retreat or commit to daily spiritual practices like meditation? Because practicing this surrendering intentionally helps be more open to noticing and receiving the gifts tucked into every moment of life—from the moon rising to the twinkle of lights on a Christmas tree. Listen.