Saturday, 15 November 2014

How Do You Keep Silence?

Image: Public domain
I remember reading somewhere that Gandhi used to keep a day of silence every week (a Monday, if I recall correctly). He maintained the discipline quite strictly, falling silent at midnight and not speaking again for 24 hours. There's a story that when the British were negotiating the independence of India with him one of the crucial meetings was running late into the night as officials tried to nail down all the details before Gandhi's midnight deadline. They didn't succeed - and when the clock struck twelve, Gandhi stood up and left the room without a word. The negotiations ground to a halt for a day; even the nation's future wouldn't be allowed to interfere with this commitment to silence.

I find that compelling. We practice a great deal of silence at Launde Abbey (half an hour of communal silence every morning, and again in the evening), and a lot of our visitors come on quiet days and silent retreats. So I know just how transformative silence can be, especially when shared with others. But it can be hard to maintain the discipline in the face of work pressures, interruptions, and unexpected incidents. From time to time accidental silences drop into our lives, but in general practising silence requires persistent, intentional effort and commitment.

How do you find silence in your day, or week, or year? What helps, and what gets in the way? What do you find most transformative about silence, and what is most difficult?

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