The Contemplation Pond: The Space that brings our questions to life

For the past few weeks, the focus of my contemplation has been on silence. Silence has its own chapter in the Rule of Benedict, chapter 6. The word silence in the Rule is interpreted to mean “to refrain from speech” or to be silent. Many of us have places around the monastery that may engender in us a contemplative inner quiet. My own cell is this space for me. I spend time every day entering into this quiet attunement as a part of my daily prayer ritual. Relaxing my mind and resting my body, I enter into a reprieve from the typical human doing and oftentimes I am able to settle into a word-less interior present.

Sr. Raphaela

Recently, while I was in Colorado, I had a very different experience with silence. I was staying at a friend’s house in a more rural area outside of Boulder, Colorado. The ambient noises that I had become so accustomed to, living in the monastery at St. Placid, were all of a sudden absent from my experience. The constant drone of refrigerator compressors, exhaust fans, HVAC equipment and the ever-present sound of vehicles on the freeway nearby were no longer the sound backdrop of my quiet life. After three days without this ambient noise as a living background, I felt my nervous system reset. I connected to a place within myself that I had been cut off from for so long, I had forgotten that that silence within me ever existed.

Saint Benedict lived in an era well before the industrial revolution brought 24 hours of  light, sound, movement, and motion. Benedict instructed his monks to refrain from speech so that they could enter into the silence that existed as the absence of manmade sounds. I began to wonder if interpreting the silence expressed in the Rule as simply refraining from speech is an accurate representation. How would the simplicity of monastic life be experienced differently if we created specifically the type of silence of known by Benedict in his time? How would we change, or be changed?

Comments

  • Comment posted by Jan Johnson on February 17, 2024 at 7:08AM (2 months ago)

    It seems the " entering in " was to a place where it was usually quiet in the surrounding environment ... that existed when voices were silenced. Even though I feel like I live in a quiet area (as long as inside my house and except for the jets!) there is still a huge difference when I put on my noise canceling earbuds at night or when I need a break during the day. Everything inside me instantly relaxes. I grew up practically in constant silence... far from other homes and highways and still think of silence as being not the absence of voices but the absence of appliances running and cars on the road, etc.

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