Actually planning on being completely silent for an entire week is going to be a huge undertaking for me. I’ve thought it through and intellectually I realize the benefits that aught to appear on the other side of that major undertaking. There is a big part of me that would very much like to say, Yeah, I get it. It would be fabulous to remain silent. I’ll be able to get in touch with my inner being. BUT I really don’t have the time to be COMPLETLEY QUIET for seven whole days! Then there is this smaller, wiser part of me who knows that with practice and planning I will really do this thing; Be Silent for a week. Travel inward, be alone and with who I be for a week. Interesting proposition.
First, the warm up. Each morning as I stretch out to prepare to sit for meditation, I contemplate the enormity of what being silent looks like. I go into my meditation and then as I come out of my formal meditation, I practice and become aware of how long I am able to remain silent and centered before I open my mouth to speak. As the week has progressed, I’ve discovered an interesting dichotomy. One side is that I measure what I have to say more fully and what I say bears a bit more truth then my usual babble. The downside to this morning ritual of extending my silent time is that I feel some emotions stir up that I’d rather didn’t surface. I’m finding that at times I find myself exploding with pent up anger.
Where on earth is that all coming from? Will this seven days of silence turn me into a raging lunatic? Eeks! Help! Thankfully, I stumbled into a Sleep meditation while surfing round YouTube. This nightly meditation is helping to calm things a bit for me. (Though there are times when I’d say the anger wins) Og’s scroll VI “Today I am the master of my emotions.” To the rescue.
Well, this week is a huge disappointment for me. My emotions have been the master, quite frankly. There are lessons learned though and beginning Sunday, I shall dust myself off from wrestling in the sand with my knee jerk reaction and begin again. I shall revisit Og’s scroll III “I persist until I succeed.” Coupled with my new habit of listening each night to the sleep meditation; these added tools will most certainly help prepare me for the coming week of silence. I also reckon I will arrange to go into silence for two and a half days; to do the half marathon of silence, as it were. I’m sure it will be cleansing and enlightening in and of itself.
I recall a wonderful journey into the desert in Israel, back in 1983. Our group went to this amazing monastery where the monks were living separate from the community entirely devoted to God’s work. We were welcomed by two gentle monks who took us on a tour of their monastery. We saw how their water system was cleverly arranged so that the fresh water was used for drinking and cooking purposes, then bathing and washing the clothes and then the water was sent through this incredible system of marble carved troughs. The grey water was then used for irrigation and the excess tumbled away from the mountain as a gentle waterfall.
We also were taken to the sacred tomb of the Saint who began this monastery. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the Saint’s name. It was with reverent silence, that we were all given a lighted beeswax candle to descend the ancient stone spiral stairway. Round and round into the deepening darkness, the only light was from each of our flickering candles. One of the monks lead us and the other monk followed us from behind. When we reached the Saint’s tomb, we all stood silently and in awe at the energy of peace and calm that pervaded the surrounding atmosphere. We gave our honor and peace to this silence for ten or fifteen minutes, in return we were bathed in the calm and peaceful love. Then the monk who’d followed us down lead us all upward, to ascend the cool spiral stairway. No one spoke the entire journey up and down. So peaceful and serene. We were then given a meager meal of brown bread, bean soup and black tea. The flavours were delicious. Again we ate our meal in silence. It wasn’t enforced, it simply arose naturally. The amazing thing was there were ten in our group and with the two monks it made us a group of twelve. Twelve people all silent for over two hours! Wow! When the meal was through, we washed our wooden bowls and cups. The eledest monk broke the silence, initially, with his eyes, asking us all silently, permission to speak. We each returned the gesture of agreement. What a graceful exchange! He then spoke and he asked if we would like to have a look at their simple gift shop. Yes of course we would. There were a few handmade Coptic leather crosses and some candles and other simple items. I still have my Coptic Cross. It is one of my favorite pieces.
As we were all speaking again, I found it interesting that each of us measured our words and only used them as sparingly as possible. I did have a few burning questions though. Where were all the rest of the monks in the monastery? Why were we only allowed to meet with the two of you? Would it be possible to at least see the others?
The younger of the two monks looked directly into my eyes. His eyes were gentle and had a depth that was wise and inviting; so refreshing for one so young. He said originally this entire monastery was sworn to complete silence, the only connection to the town was through a basket pulley system. Letters, produce and clothing and other necessary items were delivered up and down through that system. As time went on, the monastery altered their focus and choose break their vow of silence in a partial manner. Only two to four monks went out of silence at any one time. But those who choose to break their vow of silence were able to communicate with the town. This eventually evolved into the monastery welcoming visitors. The main portion of the monastery is still avowed to complete silence.
“Would I like to see where the silence begins?”
“Yes” I replied, looking deeply into the monk’s eyes with gratitude.
He lead me back through a hallway we had already been through, then through a doorway and another long hallway. At the end of that hallway, there was a turn and then a wrought iron gate, which gave way to a courtyard, the center was open to the elements, a lovely palm garden and fountain with burbling water were found there. The courtyard was circled by other buildings. The monk lead me to within three feet of the closed wrought iron gate. I could fell the pure energy of Love, Devotion, Peace and Calm emanating from this space of silence. So precious and pure. I wanted to open the gate and run into that sacred courtyard, to dive deeply into this delicious silence. The monk sensed my desire and gently placed a finger to his lips and lead me away from the place where silence begins. This space of silence is where I go to in my heart whenever I need solice and peace.
Thank you dear monk for such a beautiful gift of peace and strength!
VLUU L100, M100 / Samsung L100, M100
The view from the entrance to a hermit’s dwelling outside the walls ofthe Monastery of St. Macarius the Great. The Christian tradition of monasticism began in the deserts of Egypt in the 4th century AD. All other Christian monasticism flows either directly or indirectly from the Egyptian example. One of Egypt’s oldest monasteries is the Monastery of St. Macarius the Great, founded in 360 AD in Wadi Natrun, about 100 km northwest of Cairo. It has been continually inhabited by Coptic monks from its founding until today.