Sacred Silence

There is a sacredness to silence.

One of the most profound spiritual practices I have engaged with over the last year has been silence. For my prayer time I light a candle and just sit quietly as a way of being in God’s presence. No requests, no agenda, and lots of grace if my mind is too busy or loud.

I have been told practicing 10 minutes of silence a day is a good idea, but if that is too daunting that starting with 5 or even 1 minutes is great. At first for me it took my mind 10 minutes to just shut up, so I would practice 20 minutes of silence. Now I find I can often enter into silence a little quicker. I must admit that I don’t take time for silence nearly often enough but it has become something that I am more and more comfortable with.

Sometimes this prayer practice is just silence. Other times there is a sense of being aware of God with me. Some times a picture or thought comes to me that feels like it is not my own. There is a emotional resonance that makes me aware of God in a different way.

Lightning a candle and sitting in simple silence (or profound silence) have become a holy place for me.

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Laughing Together Builds Trust

I’m learning that laughing together builds trust.

It has been hard starting a new job with GOHOP during covid. There are some in person meetings with masks but the majority of my interactions have still been on Zoom. In a normal year all of these meetings would have started with an informal meal. A time set aside for chitchat, jokes and getting to know each other. At first I thought all my awkwardness, feelings of disconnect, and difficulty concentrating were just part of the transition of the new job combined with Zoom fatigue. Eventually I realized I was having just as much trouble in person as online. I also noticed I had no problem connecting online with some other circles. In those circles I realized that I was even enjoying the Zoom meetings and coming away energized.

I had an epiphany, I realized that the Zoom meetings that I was able to fully engage with were the ones full of laughter. I realized I was missing the “wasted” time of jokes and chitchat about family, music, movies, comic books, etc…

I realized that it is all that laughter, smiles and fun stuff before or after the formal meeting or class that allows me to build up a trust in the people around me. For me I need the laughter to make the circle feel safe.

Under the advice of my spiritual director I shared these thoughts and feelings with my boss (since I work for an urban monastic movement technically he is my Abbot). He thanked me for sharing and not bottling it up. The very next Zoom meeting I was in led by my Abbot began with everyone sharing about a movie or fiction novel they had recently watched or read. The agenda allotted 30 minutes for this, but it ended up being almost 45. I was beaming through it all. It was fun and people were laughing and jotting down shows and books that were being recommended. After all that “wasted” time, we still had a lot of work and learning to do, but for me it was the first time I was able to fully engage and be present. It felt good, it felt right and I felt connected.

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Life Doesn’t Fit On A Screen

Life doesn’t fit on a screen and that is OK.

It is important to remember that life is bigger and more complicated than what a tweet, photo, article, post, update, or YouTube video can convey.

This is not about hiding the negative and only sharing the polished positive versions of ourselves online. This is about giving people permission to have private matters in our lives without feeling shame or blame.

It is ok to:

  • feel sad,
  • be mad,
  • make a mistake
  • have an unpopular opinion,
  • do something weird,
  • be boring,
  • be unproductive or super productive,
  • or just keep something to yourself for no reason at all.

When I see a photo of your cat, I’m happy to see your cat but I don’t think you are the crazy cat lady. I know there is more to you than I’m being shown.

Vulnerability online is fine and good but even that is still just a shadow of real life. It is an image of an image pointing to something else. Don’t feel bad about your online self not being 100% you, it never will be. You are 100% human and that doesn’t fit on a screen.

All that being said don’t keep things bottled up that are causing you harm just because you don’t want to share them online. Share them with just one safe person. It could be a friend, a teacher, a family member, your therapist, spiritual director, pastor, priest, or a help line. You can also try praying. I believe that God sees us fully and loves us fully (no exceptions).

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When I was ten I loved flying a kite. I would head to the park and run and run until I got my kite to catch the wind and shoot up into the sky. It wasn’t a fancy kite so it wasn’t made for tricks. I eventually discovered if you let out a bunch of extra string real fast (creating some extra slack) the kite would do a nose dive. As the kite was falling if you pulled the string tight at just the right moment the kite would catch the wind and do a little spin and shoot back up into the sky (sometimes even higher). It was very exciting.
Today I was meeting with my Spiritual Director, and at the end of our session we closed with some silence in prayer. This image of a kite doing what I just described came to mind. I often feel like that falling kite with so much of my life in transition (starting a new job during a pandemic is super weird). Wind is one of the metaphors used to describe God the Holy Spirit in the Bible. This image reminds me that I might feel untethered, like the wind is gone but this is just a small moment in the grand scheme of things. You can’t get the surprise of being caught by the wind without a little drop.
I’m learning to trust that just because I don’t know what is coming next it doesn’t mean there isn’t a plan.

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