I live on a busy street. There are cars that pass by pretty often. To make matters worse, I live on the corner of an intersection with a stop light close to a fire station. I know, you might be thinking “why in the world did you choose such a place to live?” It's because a majority of the time noise doesn’t bug me. The cars passing by aren’t that bad. Actually, if I close the windows, it dials down the volume. There are other times when the street has been busier than others, especially when a fire truck decides to swing by blasting its siren. Nonetheless, it's not that often. There are times, like tonight, when I wished I lived nestled in a really quiet neighborhood. When I am feeling stressed and anxious I want the whole world to quiet down. There are moments – like tonight – when the cars stop driving by, and I realize that silence was what I needed all along. It literally feels like I am diving into a pool on a hot summer day. You know how refreshing that is? That’s what silence does to our soul. The noise that is all around us literally runs our rivers dry, and silence allows living water to start flowing again.
While you read this, you are probably trying to skim read to get to the point because you are in a hurry to check your messages or social media outlets. We are always trying to fill moment of time where we don’t have anything to do, with something, anything, to do. If we fail to do this, we feel unproductive. Over the last decade, our attention span has dropped from 12.5 seconds to 8 seconds. Some economist call it an attention economy. They say some of this is due to the fact that there is always something on and in front of us just fighting for our attention. Silence requires you to practice patience and waiting, which seems so unproductive. This is probably due to the fact that the “doing” of this practice requires a different type of “doing” altogether.
The spiritual practice of silence allows us to make space for the Spirit of God to speak and for us to listen. Silence allows us to open ourselves up to God while disconnecting with the world around us. When we practice silence we are telling ourselves that we are not going to give into the temptation of doing. This temptation of doing is one of the main struggles I see people face when they practice silence. But when we practice silence, we communicate to God that he is more important than that thing we have to do. If this spiritual practice feels like the least productive to you, I encourage you to practice it with even more intentionality. Personally, I have noticed that the practice I try to avoid turns out to be the one my soul needs the most. The most important thing about silence is to remember that it is not about doing. Silence is about being and listening. Silence is resting in God. It helps us cut the things that have entangled us.
Things to remember as you practice silence:
- It will feel weird. This is something that we aren’t use to, so expect your body and you mind to ask you to do something else other than be with God in silence.
- Find a place free of distractions.
- Turn off your phone, or put it away.
- Set a timer - preferably not your phone. This will allow you to forget about time and dive into this practice.
- Start small. Start with 5 minutes and every week increase that by adding 5 more minutes. You will eventually get a feel for what a good healthy time of silence is like for you.
- There is no agenda. This means, you simply are being with God and listening to God.
- Avoid saying prayers. You might find yourself automatically start asking God for things, resist this. Just be.
- Pay attention to the different emotions that come up as you sit in silence. Don’t judge them, just see them.
- After you are done, reflect on what it was like to be with God in silence.
- It gets better. At first it will feel weird, but then you will get into it and your soul will ask for it. You find that silence can be a fresh cup of water on a hot day.
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Beto was born in Sonora, Mexico and moved to the U.S. at the age of 10. After studying at LABI, he transferred to Vanguard University where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and is currently pursuing his Master's in Leadership Studies. He is married to Caitlin and they just had their first son, Malachi, in March 2016. Beto is the Spiritual Formation Pastor at Faro Church in Lake Forest, California and loves a good cup of coffee.