Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Spiritual Disciplines and the Risky Art of Cave Diving: "Silence": Redux

Last time in "The Spiritual Disciplines and the Risky Art of Cave Diving was "Simplicity"


Almost 2 weeks ago, I wrote:
There is one thing I feel compelled to say about silence: "The only way to learn about silence is to go and practice it. God will take care of the rest."
                                                                 CH +

OK. That wasn't fair, I know. I was making a point about silence, and intended to come back and address the subject more thoroughly. I meant to come back to this much sooner. But I was "accosted" by a couple of troglodyte, ham-handed fellow Christians who are so NOT quiet in their souls that all they know how to do is condemn, stir up trouble, spew hatred and quarrel, treating any position other their own as wrong, and insulting all those who hold any position other than their own. My battle with them was a bit protracted. I was hoping to get them to see their hatred...the "noise" that was emanating from their lack of stillness. It was ugly. And my soul became so discomfited under this lashing from "friends" that I had to withdraw, at last, from trying to soothe the rabid dogs, lest I myself get infected from their bites. Speaking of silence, I wanted to say to them, along with Will Rogers, "Never miss an opportunity to shut up!" Since they wouldn't, I had to do practice it myself.

I guess I had it coming, because I once was (a bit) like them. And crabs don't like it when one of them tries to crawl out of the pot. Ever notice how they latch on with a death-grip and try to pull the would-be escapee back  into the boiling water?

So I will leave off discussing the negative aspects of those who lack inner silence, and turn now to the positive aspects of S I L E N C E. I am a tortured contemplative. I am a pronounced extrovert, and so solitude, and the silence which is supposed to come with it, are not natural for me. And I live near a noisy road in suburbia, so silence is not easy to find. And I have noisy dogs next door, and the noisiest neighbors God ever made. One of them is addicted to gas-powered, outdoor lawn maintenance tools. Another is hard-of-hearing and keeps a television on his screened-in porch. My wife and I put a lot of work into creating a back yard retreat, complete with a garden and a fountain we named "Arathusa", after the nymph of streams and rivers. Imagine my frustration when, sitting in my back yard, "Family Guy" is blaring from a TV 30 feet away from me.  I am a clockmaker, and so we have clocks that tick-tock, some busy and fast, others slow and hypnotic, some that chime every 15 minutes. And so silence--physical silence, that is--is a GIFT. It is like water for my thirsty soul. It is so pure, true silence is, in its nothingness, that when I come by it, I am deeply grateful for it. 

Cave divers tell us that there is nothing so silent and life-giving than floating in a cavern under water. Like being in the womb, and so like being "born again". True silence can engulf and embrace you. It has a dimension of its own. It frightens the uninitiated because at first silence gives room to the din of voices in one's head. But don't be afraid. Let the voices surface and float away. They can't harm you. Stay there long enough for the deeper silence to take hold. The deeper silence where God lives. And let it penetrate, and permeate. Until you are shot-through with silence. This is one way to conquer our inordinate fear of death, for when you realize that God lives in this silence, then the absolute silence of the grave becomes absolute God, because the more real the silence is, the more real God becomes.

But that's just the power and gift of exterior silence.

There is a silence far more powerful than all the confusion and noise and clamoring and clanking of the gates of the Hell we often experience here. It is the inner silence--the silence of the soul--that transcends conflicted thought and emotion, conflict in the world, conflict and strife and terror and abuse and violence and hatred and lust--all things with which my soul can be enticed to get involved. This silence of soul, when learned, is available upon demand. No matter the state of the exterior, which takes great intentionality and effort, if not luck, to bring into silence, silence of the soul is a rest that passes all understanding. You first know it when you contemplate God long enough for Him to get into you. And then you can learn to call upon this silence at any time. It is a silence that comes even while in the midst of trauma. It is the peace of God under lashings and insults and blows to the face and on the cross that gave rise to Jesus' generosity of soul to forgive and love even His tormentors. It is the touch of God, it is the "unleashing" of God upon the world from the soul. Imagine if we could "unleash" God upon the world with this inner silence. Picture open hearts, silently pouring out God upon the earth until we are knee-deep in Him. Picture the flood rising above our heads. Picture cave-diving. Go. And learn silence. And then, go. And practice it. On the seventh day, God rested. And was silent.

Chris Huff

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing 
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” 
― Rumi

Next time, "Humility"


  1. Ah, the silence of a soul open to the working of the Holy Spirit and able to simply be when all around us are on a quest to simply do . . . that special silence which calms us and separates spiritually from a noisy world. Once we find our way to experiencing THAT silence, we are blessed indeed! Brother Lawrence wrote of it. Watchman Nee in The Release of the Spirit writes of it. It is so life-giving!

  2. It took me quite a while to become comfortable with silence. My mind is constantly busy. It hates a vacuum and rapidly seeks to fill it with anything it can find. One of the benefits of my graduate training in counseling was to learn to be comfortable with silence, not feel the need to fill it immediately. But I still find that when I have not had cause to practice silence for a while I become uncomfortable with it again and have to work at relaxing into it.

    Quietness of the soul has been an unexpected gift of the huge changes in my life over the past few years. I have been forced to trust God in ways that I had not learned to do before. That trust has led to a peace in most circumstances that is far greater than anything I had before. I have gained a better understanding of Jesus' instruction in Matthew 6:25 to not worry about my life. While it is not yet free from stress, it is far more free from worry and is much more peaceful.

    1. Oh, Kevin I sure can relate. Stress and circumstances which rob me of my peace and too much THINKING. Ah, but as you say, as trust in Him grows stronger and stronger this weak human finds her weakness replaced by His strength. His peace is like no other!