“Silence is never merely the cessation of words.
Silence is fullness, not emptiness.
It is not absence, but the awareness of a presence.”
John Chryssavgis ¹
“We do not hear silence; rather, it is that by which we hear.
We cannot capture silence; it must enthrall us.
Silence undergirds our very being as ceaseless, primary prayer.”
Winter. Darkness. Rest. Silence… Silence…
I love winter. It is my favorite season after autumn. What I love most about winter is the opportunity to recognize and dwell in the silence of this dormant time of year. Now that the flurry, noise, and craziness of the Christmas season is over, I feel like I can wrap the soft, fluffy cloak of winter around me and just rest in the beautiful silence of winter.
Silence is the essence of winter. Silence is not just the absence of sound but also occurs with the absence, or diminishment, of visual stimuli as well. In winter, the raucous, riotous, kaleidoscopic bright colors of spring and summer are dimmed to shades of brown and gray, stark silhouettes of black, and expanses of white. Both the diminishment of visual and auditory diversity fosters our ability to find silence within ourselves and encourages us to recognize and nourish that silence in our minds and hearts.
I find there is almost nothing that opens my being to silence more than walking in the woods during a quiet snowfall. The heavier the snow falls, the more silent the woods becomes. The birds and other animals hunker down; they are neither seen nor heard. The accompanying wind that may be felt in open spaces is silenced in the deep woods. Trees stand calmly, arms open, graciously accepting, like bejeweled gifts given, the snow on their branches. My feet do not even make any sound as they walk upon the fresh-fallen snow. It is so quiet that the only sound I might hear is that of the snow itself as it falls.
Sometimes I like to stop and sit on a log or stump and just “listen” to the silence. It is so calming and peaceful, so enveloping, that my mind settles, and my deepest self opens up into the great expansiveness of silence and emptiness that is the Ground and Source of All Being. In those moments, I feel a vast, never-ending connection with all that is. This silence “is not absence, but the awareness of a Presence.” ¹
“Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness.” ³
As Richard Rohr says, “We do not hear silence; rather, it is that by which we hear.” ² It is only by allowing ourselves to settle into silence that we may even truly hear at all what is deepest in our hearts and spirits. It is only by settling into silence that we may even truly hear the Spirit dwelling within us as she softly speaks. This is the “silence (that) undergirds our very being as ceaseless, primary prayer.” ²
Vow to take a few minutes each and every day of this year to stop, take a few deep breaths, settle your mind, and drop into your inner self. Allow yourself to go deeply and quietly into the silence which is fullness not emptiness; silence, which is not absence but the awareness of Presence. Then…listen…
¹ John Chryssavgis, In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers
²Adapted from Richard Rohr, Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation
(Franciscan Media: 2014), 4-7.