The Power of Silence

Kathleen - Charlotte, North Carolina
Entered on October 17, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

The Power of Silence

I am an extrovert. I talk to think and enjoy giving my opinions. I am expressive and let those around me know how I am doing. But I have come to learn the power of silence and to believe in its capacity to restore my soul.

I began to appreciate silence when I started studying spiritual direction, a contemplative relationship that goes back to the desert mothers and fathers, the ammas and abbas sought out for their wisdom and insight into life’s questions. In spiritual direction two people share silence and prayerful attention to the spiritual movement in one’s daily life. I joined an intense program, read ancient mystics and current theologians, and committed myself to a two-day silent retreat annually, alone. Having never considered extended periods of silence and not being a praying person, I was intrigued by the prospect, and admittedly, a little nervous.

On my first silent retreat, I felt a new kind of freedom. I read favorite poems and illustrated quotations from Rumi, Rilke and Mary Oliver. I walked in the woods and sat at the edge of a pond. I learned to treasure the choice not to speak, to let the quiet inside me be the only voice. In the stillness of sitting, my mind cleared, and I dropped into my essence. Listening to my heart’s voice was scary at times. It felt powerful and strong. I cried at the wonder of my creation and very existence.

I believe that stepping into stillness, creating silence, choosing the absence speech or music empowers me to listen to the voice of my soul, to hear myself beyond thinking. I can know my heart’s truth and not be caught up in the continuous tapes of worry or to do’s that can sap my energy. When I am silent, a friendly spaciousness arrives. I come home to a place where I belong. In silent contemplation I find peace in my breath and my body. My shoulders drop, my tongue rests lightly in my mouth, my eyes close and every physical part of me renews. I sit in wonder and awe, thankful for life.

Just as prayer before a meal invites a pause to bless the food, chosen silence is grace to bless my whole life. Whether I see my way into life’s questions, hear mysterious suggestions or just rest in the open space of my being, I am restored, renewed and grateful.

In this time of iPods constantly streaming music or talk into our ears, reality shows blaring too much information about others’ relationships and lives, radios playing steadily as we drive our commuting miles—in this world of striving and busyness, I believe quiet reflection, silent contemplation, and chosen stillness connect me to my true self, the one that has a spark of the divine connected to the sacred beyond me. Such stillness offers balance in my body, mind and spirit, deepens peace in my heart and awakens a sense of wonder. I believe in the capacity of silence to restore our souls.