As a child, I was thrilled to wait for the school bus in the morning. It meant I could “play” with other students from my school and interact with those who were both younger and older than I. Looking back, I can now understand that the simple act of waiting for the school bus broadened my personal understanding of what community is all about, because I welcomed everyone into my field of perception.
Recently, as I drove to work during the first week of school, I was saddened to see this scene: Very close to the Diocesan Center, a group of students wait for their buses. At this stop, there are high school, middle school and elementary students. As I drove past them, I noticed that every one of them had ear buds in their ears and they were all paying attention to their phones, either standing or sitting at the curb in complete silence. They were completely engrossed inwardly to noise coming from their ear buds.
I could not help of thinking of this story as I continue my reflections on listening. According to Kay Lindahl, author of The Sacred Art of Listening1, silence within listening gives us the ability to access a personal still point. As I was reading her reflection, I thought, “What’s a ‘still point?’” According to CJ Manheim, a Craniosacral Therapist, “During the still period, which may last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, all parts of the body become quiescent [being at rest; quiet; still; inactive or motionless], and then a profound relaxation occurs.2
So how does silence within listening work? As illustrated in the opening story, we are bombarded with sensory overload. Sustained silence gives us a moment – the ability to process what our senses present to us. Silence gives us the skill to organize sensory chaos all around us.
How do you find this “still point?” Unplug. Turn off the radio, iPod, TV, etc. Consciously breathe deeply and reflect, not just react. By doing this, we begin to actually slow down, to reflect on what is happening, to listen to ourselves and the wisdom of others as well as to be present to the now. In short, it connects to God, who often speaks through silence.
I can also hear you say, “Come on, Sister! In today’s world, this is not reality!” I understand where you are coming from. I gave up listening to the radio for Lent and have not gone back to it because I have discovered that the added silence gives me a profound perspective of God in my every day life. You see, I practice what I preach!
1Lindahl, Kay. The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. SkyLight Paths Pub., 2002. Pg. 14
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness