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the practice of attentive silence

the practice of attentive silence

Years ago I wrote a series titled “the practice of….’.

I’ve been feeling a tug to bring these back. The posts focused on different topics like the practice of keeping house or of wide-open living.

Who knows how often these practice posts will show up here moving forward. My vision for writing more in 2020 shifted significantly. It was enough keeping our spirits above water and my work also grew in unexpected (yet welcome) ways.

But for today…

I offer thoughts around a necessary practice in our lives: SILENCE

What Attentive Silence is NOT

It’s really important to name this practice as a gift, something benefitting you and others.

The practice of keeping silence is not the same as the silent treatment. Why emphasize this point?

Because silence should never be a weapon.

Holding off words and offering yourself emotional, spiritual uncluttered space can be life-giving. But using silence to avoid conversation, as a response to anger or to treat another as though they don’t exist robs life out of a relationship.

The silent treatment is an act of superiority – an ‘I am better than you’ judgement.

I believe when we act this way, our best selves are left behind. Some other, uglier version takes over whether we realize it or not.

If you notice the silent treatment as a go-to in relationships, pause and consider why this is and what support is helpful to turn the habit around.

Attentive Silence at its Best

Certainly, some of us welcome silence — I am one of those people!

I thrive in connections with others, whether one-on-one or as a group. So much laughter, support, storytelling and sharing happens. Still…silence and solitude are my core needs.

Each of us, as introverted or extraverted as we may be, could benefit from pausing the noise around us for a time. Why?

Because in silence we notice things.

So many people commented to me how lockdown offered time to take a deeper look at their life. Over and over again, I heard similar stories. Life got more silent and things began to surface. {This doesn’t diminish extremely hard parts of the pandemic, just an observation}.

Attentive silence at its best is an opportunity for paying attention

It’s an active, set apart time — a time for allowing the Spirit of God to surface our soul needs. To notice and perhaps take inventory; pause and welcome quietness as we would a dear friend.

In fact, it’s helpful for us to realize life can and will go on even when we take a break.

Practicing Silence

The goal here isn’t to forever rid yourself of all words, sounds and interruptions!

Remember, practicing silence is an opportunity for paying attention. Maybe you’re already aware of what needs focus — something to hold in prayer, to discern or consider, to offer thought. Maybe you’re at a complete loss.

Either way, begin small if this feels new. Choose a practice below which rings true for you now:

  • Set aside a 10 minutes or more for silence. Share why with anyone who needs to know. Simply offer yourself quiet — no spoken or written words, music, noise machines, etc. Yes, just sit (or walk, stand, stretch, etc) in silence!
  • Consider time in silence to ponder a situation needing your attention; try praying silently or journaling thoughts without other sounds present.
  • Try combining silent time with a necessary activity: yard work, laundry, cooking, etc.
  • If you are familiar with practicing silence, try extending your time — create space for a silent retreat of sorts.

Notice how you respond: do you resist or welcome these practices?  What emotions rose up?

For a period of two years I attended a quarterly group retreat for three days at a time. From 8pm one evening until 8am the next morning, the entire group practiced silence. We did it again between noon and 4pm another day.

Our whole community paused words and sounds for the purposing of paying attention — to see what arose in the silence.

So hear me when I say… silence may not be comfortable, but it can be a powerful spiritual tool God can use to awaken our soul!

How do you practice silence? What support might you need?



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  • Jane WebbDecember 4, 2020 - 11:48 pm

    Your email came to me almost a month ago and today I have time to read it.  I was in the mist of moving out of our home of 22 years when it came.  I was busy sorting, selling giving away, packing, saying good-bye, etc.  How I longed for silence and thankfully I now have it. It is indeed a gift.  I hope to make time daily to record and process many emotions.  I look forward to what God will show me.  Thank you for your encouraging words.  Jane Webb ReplyCancel

    • DanieleDecember 8, 2020 - 1:42 pm

      You are welcome Jane…. thank you for sharing of your own journey. ~ DanieleReplyCancel

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Daniele Evans