06 February, 2012

The Art of Silence

"True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment." ~William Penn

There is healing and rest in being still, in reflection and solitude. In the months since I began my freelancing business, however, there has been little time to stop and think. Even before that, past circumstances in my life have kept my mind running at full throttle as I've struggled to keep them from influencing my present.
I think I've been feeling overwhelmed with life for a long time now. I didn't realize it until two friends wrote about their own moments of stillness and reflection within hours of one another last week. Later that same day, I picked up one of my favorite books, Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water, on a whim and read:

“When I am consciously running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening.” ~Madeleine L'Engle

So true. I took a moment, right then, to sit back and be silent. I squashed all the spinning worries of the day and made myself simply rest. I enjoyed the warm breeze flowing from the open window (in Arizona, winter has already passed to my utter grief and bewilderment), the sound of birds chirping, and the freeing sight of the bowl of the clear sky. I realized I was smiling and more relaxed than I had been in what felt like ages. When it was time to go back to my desk, it no longer seemed like the hideous slave-driver it had been a short time before.
We human beings need that silence. This modern world is full of distractions, interventions, and so much noise that many are burdened with sensory overload. It's no wonder that there are so many remedies for stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression. We have taken no time to interact with something outside of ourselves.

“I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.” ~Madeleine L'Engle

My soul yearns to be, craves it with the deepest longing. Most importantly, to me, it gives me time away from myself. That solitude reminds me that there is something greater than my needs and wants and worries. Without taking the time for an intentional stillness of body and mind, I can't attend to the needs of my spirit.
As an artist, my writing needs that or it will wither. How can I tell the story of a life, the turning of a world, or the death of a people without taking the time to understand the desires of the spirit? I believe that this quiet time is also the time when God can speak most clearly and true understanding and enlightenment is obtained.

"Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation." ~James Thurber

For me, being - that intentional stillness of reflection and openness to the spirit's refreshment - is the only way to the creativity necessary for the telling of tales. The nourishment of the soul opens up the universe to a life made dull with the desperation of every day living.
Why don't you try taking a moment - or just a few seconds - to be still this week? What does the stillness say to your spirit? Even if you're not an artist, taking the time to rejoice in simply being is a joyful and healing process.

"This questioning of the meaning of being, and dying, and being, is behind the telling of stories around tribal fires at night; behind the drawing of animals on the walls of caves; the singing of melodies in spring, and of the death of green in autumn. It is part of the deepest longing of the human psyche, a recurrent ache in the hearts of all God's creatures." ~Madeleine L'Engle


  1. Incredible, Jess. Beautiful.


  2. Wow! Love this. Stillness is a vital part of life we've largely forgotten...and it shows in our haggard appearances, our short tempers in line, and our inability to handle rapid changes without having a meltdown. Thanks for a reminder we can all stand to hear more of!

    1. Thanks for the warm comments, Jen. I'm happy you enjoyed it.

      I think you're right in that it's a forgotten art - we've become so busy and connected that it doesn't even cross our minds that maybe we should take some time away from it all.

      Speaking of art, I thought it was hilarious that you and I both posted "Art of" blogs the same day. Completely unintentional, I swear!


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