The Silence of What We Don’t Say

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

The above Ted Talk really got me thinking about the end of our theme of silence, which also almost exactly coincides with the end of the Christian Lenten season and the beginning of our theme of acceptance. In the talk, poet and educator Clint Smith talks about how our silence is sometimes implicit acceptance.  Although our intern Nermine already wrote about some of the negative sides of silence, I found myself exploring both silence and acceptance in their most positive lights.

Yet, silence and acceptance aren’t always positive. It is important to look at the ways my silence hurts the world. I am not someone who is generally accused of biting my tongue. In fact, one my greatest struggles in life has been learning how to preach my truth without alienating or hurting others. Even so, I am not guiltless when it comes to the silence of what we all neglect to say. I live a huge urban center, and I  am guilty of being silence and ignoring the humanity of those around me. I have silenced more than a few people with my words, with my implicit acceptance of systems of oppression.

So as we close this month, as we move from silence to acceptance, I pray that each of us can look at the places where our silence has caused pain, has sent the message that we accept some terrible injustices. I pray that we all have a chance to seek the best in silence and acceptance, and that we also take time to grapple with the use of silence and acceptance that hurt our world. I pray that none of us stay silent when we should be speaking our truth.

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Silence and Writer’s Block

By: Will O’Brien, Social Media Intern 2015

IMG_0545I seem to have a story, quip, or adage for every possible moment. I often write these down, telling myself that some day when I’m sitting in my little apartment over a pub on the Dingle peninsula working on my next novel these scraps of stories and characters will come in handy. However, as I have sat staring at this blank word document attempting to reflect on silence for the past four weeks not one of these scraps has come in handy.

I haven’t been experiencing the external silence I was yearning to write about. I faced an internal silence – writer’s block. This rut I was stuck in while being stared down by a blank word document is not vastly different from the rut I often feel when isolated from my religious community.

When I first arrived in Morocco, I was told an adage about travel that didn’t make the list, but should have. ‘When you are in a place for a week you can write a novel, for a month you can write an article, and when you are there for a year you have nothing to write.’ As you become accustom to a practice and a culture it becomes the norm. The same phenomenon occurs in the course of ones religious practice.

What happens when one develops spiritual writer’s block? Many practitioners or organized religion have been practicing in the same tradition for years if not decades. They participate in the same communities with similar people worshipping and creating community in the same way. Does the practitioner still have something relevant to say? How do they go about finding a fresh perspective?

Now, this is not an evangelical how to blog post – 10 Easy Ways to Rekindle Your Passion in the Chapel – but perhaps looking at a few authors’ suggestions might serve as a nice road map. When I struggle with my own bouts of writer’s block I often turn to the all-knowing Internet to find how the best deal with a similar problem. Without fail the top advice is always to set a routine for yourself.

While this sounds like reinforcing the problem perhaps the ‘yourself’ is more important than the ‘routine.’ We often rely on the timing of exterior factors to determine when we take time for religion. Whether that is the placement of the sun or a priest changing the time of mass this routine is not uniquely yours.

When I stepped back and took the time to worship and reflect on my own, my perspective was refreshed. I developed a relationship and point of view that I could not have built on someone else’s schedule. It takes a personal routine to break down a personal block.

A Prayer For Silence

As we move towards the end of our theme of silence, we offer this prayer that includes moments for silent reflection. These moments can be as long or short as you like, the lines can be repeated, edited, or even skipped. There are as many ways to work with this prayer as there are types of silence

FullSizeRenderDear Divine Spirit, 

Let me feel you in this silence.
(Pause)

Let me hear you in this silence.
(Pause)

Let me know you in this silence.
(Pause)

Let me be with you in this and all moments of silence.
(Pause)

Amen.

If you would like to share your own prayer, please feel free to submit it to us! Like all prayers on Searching Sophia’s Pockets, please feel free to edit and shape this prayer for use in your home or place of worship, and then share the experience with us!

Silence is Golden

We are excited to feature a guest post today from Abd Al-Rahman Wally, who is an Engineering student in Egypt. His post invites us all to see the wisdom we can gain by seeking silence in ourselves and our lives.

ما ندمت علي سكوتي يوما و لكن ندمت علي كلامي مرارآ

This is a very common saying here in Egypt, which apparently originated from Roman writer Publilius Syrus’s quote : “I often regret that I have spoken, but never that I have been silent”. Despite its popularity I honestly doubt that anybody actually uses it. Silence has been mistakenly understood as a sign of weakness or ignorance, but I think it’s quite the contrary. Silence has always been a sign of wisdom, and many ancient civilizations have praised silence.

No one, including me, can deny the mysterious aura that surrounds a silent person, but I could not find a trace of this kind of people in modern life, at least around me. I could only find them in novels and history books and when found them there, I was taken by them. I found that these people are often the most respectable and successful. These guys are the ones who come up with the greatest ideas, because silence gives them the time to process things correctly.

So I decided to become more silent. I decided to suspend my eagerness to react immediately towards different situations and instead to wait silently and have patience even in the simplest situations.

When I chose to be silent, I gave myself the opportunity to see life differently, to watch how people act and react with each other during different situations, to notice human interactions.

Now that I am more silent people treat me differently, and I struggle less during conversations. People now tend to ask me about my opinion and invite me to participate. Because after I listened, understood and processed, my opinions now make more sense and carry more weight. When I’m in a group and begin to talk, everybody just stops talking and listens to me, because I’m the silent one, everybody wants to hear from me.

I have also found that when I became silent I actually narrowed the area of mistakes in my communications. As a Muslim, Islam strongly emphasizes the importance of a word, and how people should weigh their words before spilling them. As prophet Mohammed says: “A word can mean the difference between heaven and hell”.

In addition to that, I really started to enjoy life more. In transportation, even with my friends, when I cut the chit-chat and listened to them talking, I discovered more and more about my friends, good things that made me understand them better and more deeply.

I can never forget the one day trip to Fayed, Ismailia. I asked all my friends to just stop chatting for 5 minutes, and just lie there on the grass. Feel the breeze and listen to the whispers of the air running to us across the Suez Canal. 5 minutes passed, another 5, and for 30 minutes we sat there smiling and relaxing.

If you are living in a big noisy city and have ever been to the wild, hiking, camping or whatever, the very first thing that you may have noticed is the silence, the beauteous silence. I find that silence in nature is always connected with beauty, peacefulness and serenity. It is that silence that I try to parallel in my daily life.

Praying Into The Silence

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

This lent, as I disconnect with social media in an attempt to better listen to that still small voice of God, I have heard nothing but deafening silence. The roaring silence surrounding uncertainties in my future, in the life of my friends, in my faith.

This silence has been tough. It has not been the silence of peace, but rather a soul-churning silence. It has been a silence that feels more like crawling on gravel than swimming the the deepest of oceans.

In my fumbling attempt to struggle through this time of silence, I began searching for some new prayers to say. Prayers that might help me live better in the silence of waiting. In my search, I found some prayer cards that I had taken from a special box in my grandmother’s home after she died.

FullSizeRenderI remember picking them at random.Yet now, a message is clear in the ones I chose. Saint Rita and Saint Philomena, patron saints of the impossible, Saint Michael, protector of the faith, and the Holy Mother Mary.

It seems in my blind grief I knew the deepest yearnings of my soul: to achieve the impossible, to be strong of faith, to be comforted by the brave love of a fierce mother.

So as I stumble around in this silent waiting for God’s voice, I pray these prayers. I pray for the impossible reality that is the kindom of God on this earth. I pray for faith that is strong even in silence, even in doubt. I pray for the grace to accept my path the way Mary did, even when it isn’t the path I had planned for.

I pray into the the silence, with all the faith I can muster, knowing that sometimes, it is in these moments of struggle that we see most clearly, that it is in the moments of deafening silence that we hear most clearly.

Types of Silence

Today’s guest post come from John Smith, who writes about leadership, learning, and human behavior from St. Louis, Missouri in the Heartland of the United States at his blog The Strategic Learner.  His post today take a conversational look at the types of silences we find in our lives, and what wisdom we may find in each. So, here’s John on types of silence…

When I saw the thought-provoking questions that Searching Sophia’s Pockets provided to help our creative juices flow on the topic of silence, the very first question in the list stumped me completely:

How do you find silence in your daily life?

After a moment, my brain kicked in with a smart-aleck response:

Which silence do you mean?

Is it the quiet of the world in deep night or early morning as the sun prepares to rise?

This is usually a relaxing silence, in that delicious space between sleep and the start of the day. Of course, nature is not really quiet, anyone raised in the country or who has spent much time there knows that even in the stillness of early morning, a soft blanket of background sounds provides a restful soundtrack.

If it is not that silence, then is it the silence of cowering in the dark of the night, when only the sound of your own breathing intrudes?

This dark-time silences scare me to the limits of my soul. I have been terrified to the core of my being, either through the threat of harm or death to myself or someone I deeply care for several times in my life. I have feared the loss of a relationship and my ability to meet the challenges of living. Yet this silence is made of stuff that wakes you in the middle of the night and does not allow for a return to sleep.

Is it the silence of being with someone when no words could make the moment easier or less hurtful?

This is a painful silence, which I have experienced more often in my life than I like to admit. Sometimes the words just run out and all has been said that can be said. You stare at each other across the gulf of past actions and past words and do not know what to do to make things better or right.

Finally my answer hit me. There are two times when I have experienced the power of silence more than any others:

The silence I have experienced while staring into another’s eyes without talking, and the silence during prayer while I await for God’s response.

The first silence is simple, yet powerful. As part of my counselor training many years ago, we regularly engaged in this brief act. The idea was to help us become comfortable honestly and openly with another person. The phrase we used then was “to be present with the other.”

I found this to be one of the most challenging experiences in which I have ever engaged. Without words to affect or distract us, we would gaze into another’s eyes without speaking for several minutes, although the time felt like hours.

The connection is almost tangible, as we see another human being through what we call the “portal to the soul”.

Then there is the silence during prayer—a silence of waiting for God’s response. This is a different silence, an anticipatory silence, where you have shared yourself with God and await a response.

When I was younger, I saw this as waiting for the answer: “Yes”, “No”, or “We’ll See”, just like I used to lay out logical arguments and wait for my parent to decide.

Now I treat prayer more like a conversation with a trusted friend, where secrets are shared, doubts are spoken aloud, and the other’s felt presence is often all that is needed. The silence enfolds and warms me, because I trust the relationship. Maybe God will answer and maybe not, but I will receive what I need through the silence.

So, which silence does Sophia mean? I suppose it depends on which silence you need in your life…

When Silence Must End

Keeping International Women’s Day in mind, our intern Nermine, has written this compelling piece about the silence surrounding sexual assault and harassment in her home country of Egypt. We find immense wisdom in her strength to speak out, to break the silence, and we are honored to share her words here.

danger

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

Where I come from, we (women) are raised and taught that silence is just the other side of femininity: an essential quality you must possess as a woman. We are not to raise our voices. We are not to laugh too loudly. We are not to object too much, for a troublesome woman is less feminine and therefore less desirable. We are not to express bluntly what we want or desire, for audacity is a smear in your reputation that will forever haunt you. Our silence is always taken as our approval and acceptance, when in reality we often keep silent simply out of fear, helplessness, or a deeply-rooted conviction that this is the best we can get. I know I have been silent for all of these reasons, and more.

Being labeled loose or slutty is  the price we as women in Egypt have to pay if we chose to speak up and fight against this society. This society that taught us that domestic physical and sexual abuse must be kept behind closed doors. This society that taught us that this abuse is a normal part of our lot as women. This society that taught us that sexual harassment and rape are our fault and we must remain silent as these stains of shame will never go away.

It is a terrible fact that I consider myself lucky because I was only sexually harassed once. I was quite young and I never spoke about it. I shoved the memory out of my mind as there was nothing but guilt, shame, and helplessness. The memory has not been forgotten.

Looking back, a part of me wished I had screamed and fought, but I didn’t. But now I raise my voice about this ugly reality that women in my country are facing on a daily basis. Although lots of awareness has been raised lately, so many voices are still silent about abuse, harassment, rape and oppression against women in all its forms.

I know that sometimes silence can seem easy and safe; we think it will save us from more pain and help us avoid battles that we think we won’t be able to overcome. But this silence is poisonous, it is painful, it is haunting and it must end.

I salute all the strong and courageous women in my country and elsewhere: those who chose to speak not only for themselves but for others too. And my heart goes out to all women who still cannot and I pray that we may have the courage to speak up and fight even among the piercing eyes and pointing fingers that are ready to blame us. I pray that we may always know our value and our strength and believe that we deserve better, and I pray that we may together defeat this silence that was not our choice.

Finding Yourself in Silence

By: Jenni Taylor, Author in Chief

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.–Khalil Gibran

I spent three days on the back of a motorcycle steadily winding its way through the mountainous north of Vietnam, through the villages on the outskirts of Hanoi. The guide was driving, and because of the roar of the motor I was excused from making conversation.photo 4

It was three days of near total silence, and the silence was welcomed with open arms. Stress, responsibilities, and agonizing meetings had dominated my life recently, and a break was long overdue. So it began- one the back of this dirt bike Honda.

It was in the silence of the roads, the strength of the mountains, and the patience of the empty rice paddies where I emptied my heart like emptying lint out of old, unused pockets, and filled it up again. If eyes are the windows to the soul, my eyes were due for a window washing. I spent those hours watching the landscape and filling my eyes with beauty, with fog creeping over lakes and fisherman casting their nets.

I let my mind go free. I let thoughts float by, without judgment, just acknowledgment that they needed to exist in order to move on. I thought about places I’ve been, people I know, things I have done. Positive blended with negative in one big pool of remembrance, acknowledgment of pieces of my life I had not given thought to in a long time.

photo 1It was in the silence I began to find healing. There was no music, no conversation to drown out the honesty flashing through my mind, and I stood face to face with myself, a full look at my naked soul in a mirror. I saw someone who was tired, but strong. I saw the experiences that left marks on my heart and began to see those marks as beauty marks. I saw my soul reaching for beauty, truth, and strength.

So I took my soul by the hand and showed it the spectacular beauty, truth, and strength in the mountains surrounding me, and began to see it echoed and copied into my soul’s DNA. I soaked up nature like a sponge in a bathtub, and made it a part of me.

I so desperately needed that silence, the quiet, the roar of the motor and the flashing pavement beneath the wheels. Within another two weeks I found myself crying on a beach looking at a rainbow, and sang a song of thankfulness to the skies. Silence leads to song, and mountaintops lead to more journeys. It is in the silence when you can truly find yourself.

Seeking Submissions: Silence

It is that time again! A time for preparation, for waiting, for quiet! Here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, we are dedicating this month to the theme of SILENCE. Quiet time is often overlooked in our busy world, but silence is an important part of almost every spiritual journey. This month we want to hear about the places of silence in your life and how they have led you to find wisdom, love …and lint.

If you are stuck for where to start your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. How do you find silence in your daily life?
  2. How has silence helped you on your spiritual journey?
  3. How do you feel when you find silence?
  4. Do you experience the Holy in silence?
  5. How do you cope with too much silence/too much noise?

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

The Searching Sophia’s Pockets Team