This Present Silence

. . . we continually try to live an inch ahead of ourselves, we do not feel the absurdity of it. Yet that is what prevents us from being completely in the present moment, which I dare say is the only moment in which we can be, because even if we imagine that we are ahead of time or ahead of ourselves, we are not. The only thing is that we are in a hurry, but we are not moving more quickly for this.

Gosh do I relate to this. I can picture myself driving to library story-time, running late, Zenie singing away in the back seat, my to-do list in one hand, my phone in the other, realizing  that neither hand is on the wheel, planning dinner, trying to figure out how I can get the house cleaned up and the clothes ironed and my emails read during Zenie’s ever shortening nap time.  In the back of my head I know all of this rushing and thinking isn’t getting me anywhere any faster.

Reading on, Bloom explains how in order to live in the present we need to step out of the storm of life and choose to be quiet and be present with God who is the “point of total stability. It is the point where all the conflicting tensions meet and are counterbalanced by one another and are held in the powerful hand of God.

To work towards living in the present and finding this point of stability which is the presence of God, Bloom gives some very practical recommendations of how to be still and quiet.

Now I am for sure a novice when it comes to creating silence  in my life.  But I have noticed that many of the grandfathers and grandmothers in the faith, those that established the church, and those who have taken vows to live for Christ,  emphasize the importance of silence.  If you have ever visited a monastery you will know what I mean, Michael goes often and says one of the most overwhelming features is the quiet.

It does make sense, that as Iong as I let myself feel crazed by the worlds pressures on me, and as long as I let my mind race between how I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to yesterday, and I’m not sure if I can face what tomorrow brings, there isn’t much space for me to hear from God.

You may have read my previous post, and know that for a year we lived in the middle of a 7,000 acre ranch. It was beautiful, there were no cell phones and we saw far more horses than cars or people. It was much easier to sit in silence.

We didn’t have a clothes drier, but we did have the beautiful hot Texas sun, so twice a week I would do the washing and then hang it out to dry. Though this was a much bigger chore than using a drier it was also wonderful.  The birds would flutter around, the breeze would blow and I would feel grateful just to be there (yes sometimes I would step into a fire ant mound which was painful and there were plenty of days when it was very hot or very cold, but overall it was still a good experience.)

I noticed that while working I would usually loose sight of what I was doing and my mind would wander to my next task and then to the one after that.  A tension would rise in me. I wanted to get that next thing done but couldn’t do it yet, because, well clearly I was still hanging the laundry.
I began to make a simple and conscious effort to focus on my work. I would say to myself, “I’m just hanging laundry, just out here hanging laundry.” And when my mind would start running through the list of things I had to do, I would try to stop it and re-focus on what I was doing.

And you know what, something pretty awesome began happening.

Okay so you know when you are watching a movie at the very beginning and you don’t really know what it is about yet. Maybe there is some music playing and the camera is just kind of panning different landscapes and nothing is really happening but you are watching  intently because you know a dinosaur or a rocket ship is going to jump out any moment and you want to be prepared for it.  It is just quiet and scenery but you are just watching, engaged, interested, expectant.

Well, that is what laundry time became for me. Over time, the regular everyday work became rich and vibrant.  The colors looked brighter, the sounds more musical. Through practicing silence I went from standing there hanging laundry to experiencing the world in a more full way than I did in any other time of the day. I began to experience the present with a new intensity, a new present-ness that made working in silence invigorating.  I began to wonder if all of life could be experienced in this way, if I was making space to be closer to God and allowing  His peace to let me see the world through His peace rather than my craziness.

I am no theologian, and really since moving I haven’t been able, or more truthfully haven’t been willing to put the effort into the discipline of silence. But I think this is what Bloom is getting at. No matter how much I worry about what I have to do it won’t get it done any faster.  I am not speeding the future up and instead I’m missing out on the richness of the moment that is the present. We can’t experience God in the past and we can’t experience Him in the future. There really is only right now.

I am going to work against this culture and my own busy nature that keeps me glued to my phone and my to do list. I am going to take Bloom’s challenge and try to take five minutes per day to just sit and be quiet and see what happens.

Who wants to join me?

2 Comments

  • Shannon Reply

    Oh man, this sounds hard! haha… so just to be clear, no prayer, meditation, anything like that right? Just trying to be silent and present for 5 minutes? I’m game for trying it!

  • egjarrett Reply

    It is hard Shannon! It is easier outside, also sometimes I would do it on a walk. What I have done is try to just be quiet and attentive to the world, but that is it, attentive but not letting myself start thinking beyond that. So like if I see a pretty tree, I let myself note that it is there but don’t let myself think, “I wonder what kind it is, maybe it is an apple tree and I can pick apples, I love making apple sauce etc.” Just stop with I’m here and so is the tree. When I start to get distracted I say the Jesus prayer or say something simple like “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” And then try and keep my thoughts quiet rather than going into more prayer. When my mind wanders I do it again. It was a great exercise for me at the ranch, it has been harder for me to re-establish here. I’m no expert in this, I think there are spiritual directors who can teach it and sometimes you can go to a “silent retreat” at a monastery which is something I’d like to do in the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *