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» Ship of Fools   » Ship's Locker   » Limbo   » 8D - Quiet Zone: What makes silence?

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Source: (consider it) Thread: 8D - Quiet Zone: What makes silence?
Welease Woderwick

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For years, week-on-week, I sat in Quaker Meeting and allowed myself to be gathered into the silence. But my Home Meeting was on a moderately busy junction so there was a deal of traffic noise sometimes but still we were in a Gathered Silence.

Sometimes here I sit in silence and still traffic passes [including young Sreekanth, with his probably not-quite-legal silencer on his Yamaha 2-stroke] but generally I am able to maintain my silence.

In 2001 I was in Mt Abu in Rajasthan, sitting quietly in the corner of one of the amazing Jain Temples there, and there were loads of pilgrims and tourists and all sorts all around me but still I was able to find that inner silence.

So what is silence?

How does it affect us and help us grow?

[ 19. March 2017, 14:41: Message edited by: RuthW ]

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RooK

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I find the path to silence to often be ironically impossible without some focused activity. Usually running or walking, preferably without a necessary destination.

It takes some time to just mentally let go of all the conversations and arguments I'm conducting or planning, so that it's just my own thoughts in my head. Then those thoughts each need to be tucked away patiently. Sometimes that takes longer than others. Sometimes it's simply not finished by the time my responsibilities overwhelm me again.

When I do manage to still all the words, sensations and feelings are clearer. These are the stuff of being alive, and existing. Things to savour, or succor.

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Lamb Chopped
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I do best with white noise, most of the time. Which is why I prefer to study in a cafeteria. (Can't pray there though because I'm afraid of what others might read on my face)

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Caissa
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Internal silence is often difficult to achieve. The absence of thought can be refreshing.
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Sipech
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Would you regard silence as being inherently different from stillness? I tend to aim for the latter since I live near a large A&E department and have ambulances constantly raring up and down the road with the sirens going, so silence is pretty hard to come by.

Though I quite like the idea of spending time in an anechoic chamber .

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mr cheesy
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A few years ago I spent quite a bit of time one Summer recording silence around the town where I lived. I sought out places where I could sit for 10 minutes without interruption - they included a chapel in the cemetery, a couple of quiet outdoor places and a greenhouse.

I learned to appreciate background noise - because there was always some kind of noise including from the faint vibration of the greenhouse window panes - and that there was no such thing as real silence anywhere that I went. It took a huge amount of effort to sit still to avoid recording my own movements and rustling.

Interestingly (to me at least), the most "silent" of the silences I recorded was not the quietest, it was the stillest. One particular place I found created a kind of bubble of muffling of the outside sounds giving the impression that one was simultaneously part of the regular activity outside but also set apart from it.

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mr cheesy
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If anyone is interested I can dm a link to hear the silences on soundcloud.

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Schroedinger's cat

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I think, despite being a Quaker now, silence is not something I like or appreciate. I find it a very negative thing (the absence of sound). Whereas what I experience at the meetings is stillness - no noise for the sake if it, and no embarrassment in there being quiet.

So I think what makes for positive silence is stillness, quietness and calm. It is a state of mind and being, not an enforced lack of something. Which is why I have found silent retreats where people read the newspaper over lunch are strange to me.

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kingsfold

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My instinct is to make a distinction between external silence and internal silence. I can sit with no TV, no radio, no music (those being the things I can control!), so from one perspective, that is a silence. But I'm far from silent internally - too many chattering monkeys in my head, internal conversations etc etc.

Sometimes I can move beyond those internal conversations and reach a place of what I would call internal silence. Yes, a level of external quiet helps me to get there, but it's not necessarily dependent on it. My church is on a main road, with heavy traffic passing constantly, lots of emergency vehicles going past sirens blaring, and (if you listen closely) you can also hear the underground. But it's possible to be internally silent in that environment, at least for me.

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Jengie jon

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Firstly humans rarely experience total physical silence as it takes a level of deafness to do that. If all external noise is removed there is still the pulse of the blood through our veins which most of us are capable of hearing.

Secondly, I find a physical experience which I associate with silence when I enter what I would describe as a muffled bubble. A physical space where for some reason the sound is muffled. I use a bubble as it rarely has a hard border. I have memories of huge ones experienced on the top of hills but more regularly experience much smaller ones inside woods.

Thirdly, for internal silence I too find a physical action that takes effort but not commentary useful. I can bring some sort of silence by concentrating on physical sensations.

Fourthly, not yet mentioned there is a personal silence when the desire of the individual is not to make noise including speak. An inner commentary might still well be going on, it is the positive desire not to externalise it. I am normally exhausted when in this state and making noise feels as if I am drawing on reserves I do not have.

Jengie

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I do best with white noise, most of the time.

I find that the sound of running water (ideally a small stream or brook) works for me. Being able to focus entirely on the noise paradoxically enables a deep inner silence where all thoughts, worries and concerns are stilled.

And sometimes, just sometimes, they are even stilled enough for me to discern that still, small voice...

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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There's several different things. Outside human or civilization noise. The noise of my internal thought processes and dialogue (argument?!) with self - which I would equate with being troubled in my thoughts or stressed. The actual physical experience of silence and all I detect is my breathing, heart beat, tummy gurgling. The experience of non human natural world sounds.

Being totally quiet in thoughts, not having "mind chatter" is something I try to get to every morning. I take the dog out 5:30 or 6 in the morning and we go running (okay running is a generous description for me, the dog runs fine). At this time of year, it is completely dark and it's just us, the occasional rabbit or deer, and very limited human sounds. If I can't get my mind quiet, then I need to do more physical exertion. The term I hear a lot of is "mindfulness". Is this a part of it?

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moonlitdoor
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Could someone elaborate on what is meant by a gathered silence ? I can't quite envisage what that represents.

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Tree Bee

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quote:
Originally posted by moonlitdoor:
Could someone elaborate on what is meant by a gathered silence ? I can't quite envisage what that represents.

As far as I understand it a gathered silence is when a group waiting in silence experiences a deepening of that silence. It's hard to describe and I've only experienced it a few times. There's an extra connection there, almost a vibration.

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Welease Woderwick

Sister Incubus Nightmare
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Yes, it is like the individual silences add to more than they add up to - the sum of the parts is greater than the sum of the parts.

Does that make sense?

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Fancy a break in South India?
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What part of Matt. 7:1 don't you understand?

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Carex
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quote:
Originally posted by kingsfold:


Sometimes I can move beyond those internal conversations and reach a place of what I would call internal silence.

For me this may involve some amount of accepting the noise around me and letting it go without reacting to it. Perhaps one of the best examples is trying to sleep in the dentist's chair: I never quite get there (as I still have to keep my mouth open) but being able to relax rather than tensing up at the sound of the drill allows for that internal silence even when other things are happening around me.
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Nenya
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For me, silence in a spiritual sense has to have something intentional about it. My first experience, some years ago now, was at a work conference when the speaker that morning encouraged us to have a silent coffee break. It was far from silent, of course, with people serving us coffee talking and the general clatter and hubbub of moving around, but there was great power and rest in not having to talk. It was, for me, remarkable and my first step in the power of silence.

In the church circles I move in, silence in worship is almost impossible. We can say we'll have a few moments of silence but someone's bound to jump in with a prayer or start a song. Not saying it's wrong, just that I wouldn't count it real, intentional, silence.

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Bob Two-Owls
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quote:
Originally posted by Nenya:
In the church circles I move in, silence in worship is almost impossible. We can say we'll have a few moments of silence but someone's bound to jump in with a prayer or start a song. Not saying it's wrong, just that I wouldn't count it real, intentional, silence.

That is one of the reasons I find it difficult to be a member of any Church. I need the silence in order to find the stillness I long for. Singing, talking and jigging about tend to make me anxious whereas sitting still and listening makes me feel relaxed and able to cope with life a little longer. Yet many of the Christians I know view such things as silent contemplation as opening the door to demonic forces and shun anything that isn't active prayer. I still find the place of silence and stillness within the Church confusing do I am very pleased to see this board develop.
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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Nenya:
In the church circles I move in, silence in worship is almost impossible. We can say we'll have a few moments of silence but someone's bound to jump in with a prayer or start a song. Not saying it's wrong, just that I wouldn't count it real, intentional, silence.

You need to read this poem.
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SvitlanaV2
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If you want silence in church the kinds of churches that offer endless choruses don't seem particularly appropriate!

OTOH, black Pentecostal worship, for all its noisiness, is incredibly useful for private prayer; you simply sit and pray while everything else is going on around you. No one seems to mind.

If you want something much calmer I'd recommend choral evensong. The service I go to has a deliberate time of silence before communal worship formally begins, but I find that the soothing anthem (sung by the choir) is very useful if you want to pray or reflect quietly. The organ voluntary at the beginning or end also serves this purpose.

But almost all kinds of daytime worship find actual silence difficult to 'perform'. I've known Methodist preachers to announce a time of silent prayer ... and then proceed to talk verrrry slowly all over it! Usually the problem is that you'll get 5-10 seconds max if you're lucky.

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Schroedinger's cat

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It is one think I find refreshing in the Quakers - there is no embarrassment about silence. In so many churches, silence is seen as frightening (which is why "Silent prayer" usually means only one person talking, and "a time of silence" is an opportunity for people to contribute.

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Baptist Trainfan
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My last church was next to a busy Underground line (on a viaduct). In summer, when we had the windows open, the sound of passing trains was quite noticeable. There were times when I announced a brief time of silence, only to have it scotched when the non-stop Piccadilly Line train to Heathrow rattled past, hooting as it went ...
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Qoheleth.

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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
My last church was next to a busy Underground line (on a viaduct). In summer, when we had the windows open, the sound of passing trains was quite noticeable. There were times when I announced a brief time of silence, only to have it scotched when the non-stop Piccadilly Line train to Heathrow rattled past, hooting as it went ...

To conflate two posts, Choral Evensong at Southwark Cathedral is regularly punctuated by the squeal of rush hour rail wheels on the adjacent viaduct.
Aerial pic here

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Baptist Trainfan
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Yes, indeed. I've been there several times. But the train noise is perhaps less noticeable because it is a much larger building than our church was.

Interestingly, a year or so back I was at an ecumenical meeting in a local church here where we were enjoined to pray for the community. Most of the praying though was very much church- and us-centred, which I felt was rather missing the point.

So I started my prayer by saying something like, "Lord, we are very aware of the traffic passing outside and this reminds us of the community in which we live ..." Afterwards someone commended me warmly for "bringing the meeting back on track". (Actually, I'd found the traffic noise quite annoying!)

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Jengie jon

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In the late nineteen eighties, I spent a year in Reading. In my early days, I would find the Sunday service was frequently interrupted by Concord (Reading was Sonic Boom territory). Not stopped, I just could not hear what was going on. After a few weeks, I got used to it like the rest of the congregants and it was consigned to background.

I am not sure whether it would have been more noticeable if there had been a silence at the time or whether the tune out was so automatic we would have failed to notice.

Jengie

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Nenya
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quote:
Originally posted by Bob Two-Owls:
Yet many of the Christians I know view such things as silent contemplation as opening the door to demonic forces and shun anything that isn't active prayer.

Me too. The thinking that if you "empty your mind" - which is, in my opinion and experience, impossible and not what any meditation school of thought teaches - the Devil can jump straight in is pervasive in the circles I move in.

I am not good at establishing a regular practice of contemplative prayer, though. I've read lots of books about it and been to a number of courses. I have every good intention. But when it comes to actually sitting in silence for a short time every day, more often than not that time gets crowded out. I try hard not to beat myself up about it.

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Lamb Chopped
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I just had to talk to my son about that idea yesterday. I can't think where he picked it up--we're Lutherans. Anyway--

My understanding is that the Holy Spirit indwells us Christians (per Scripture). There is therefore no freaking reason the devil can "get inside" or gain control over us. Our minds and hearts are not "empty," no matter what we do in the way of relaxation. They are guarded, protected, filled. And if the Lord God Holy Spirit can't do that, no efforts of our own to keep our minds busy and "full" are going to work!

So I told him to go ahead and try the meditation stuff he's learning in school. As long as it's not actually edging into some sort of worship of a false god, he's fine. (I'm sure he'll tell me if they set up an altar for human sacrifice. [Big Grin] )

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mark_in_manchester

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I found Rook's description in post 2 rather moving, oddly - especially about time running out before responsibilities overwhelm one again. I also find 'work' a necessary precursor to mental silence - it would do my body more good to run like Rook, but often I find myself working in the shed. It's quite important to be working on something which is not remotely on my or anyone else's critical path, and where a need to succeed hasn't infected things - perhaps like running which has no object regarding arrival at any particular time.

I used to work in an anechoic chamber like the one linked above. I could still go there, but the mental silence I need seems to be more about putting things aside the moment they seem to be of some importance, and picking something up which I can care about in an odd kind of 'free' way which has no consequences.

When I manage it, the time spent back on the jobs-with-consequences seems to work a lot better. When I don't, I can burn days in hopeless mental circles.

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Nenya
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
My understanding is that the Holy Spirit indwells us Christians (per Scripture). There is therefore no freaking reason the devil can "get inside" or gain control over us. Our minds and hearts are not "empty," no matter what we do in the way of relaxation. They are guarded, protected, filled. And if the Lord God Holy Spirit can't do that, no efforts of our own to keep our minds busy and "full" are going to work!

Thank you for that. There are times, because I'm relatively new to it, that I still worry that contemplative prayer and/or meditation (are they the same, or at least similar enough to be spoken of in the same breath?) are some kind of slippery slope to being sucked into something dark from which there's no escape. [Eek!]

I mentioned in another post that Mr Nen and I have been doing some work with the Enneagram, which we're finding a really helpful model. I don't want to link to anything because there's some pretty flaky stuff about it on the Internet and I've deliberately kept away from most of it. I expect some people here at least will be aware of, or familiar with, it. Most of our Christian friends know about it vaguely, several are a bit disparaging. One in particular won't have it mentioned in his presence because he's read about it on the Net and wants nothing to do with it because "It comes out of the east." Rather like Jesus, then... [Biased]

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Welease Woderwick

Sister Incubus Nightmare
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[tangent] I once got lambasted by a well known Shipmate by saying that Christianity is an Asian religion. I still often giggle about his response.[/tangent]

[ 05. November 2016, 11:25: Message edited by: Welease Woderwick ]

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I give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.
Fancy a break in South India?
Accessible Homestay Guesthouse in Central Kerala, contact me for details

What part of Matt. 7:1 don't you understand?

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