Learning to become silent – by June Mears Driedger

seats in prayer chapel

Centering prayer is a way of quieting down one’s mind—one’s interior. On Saturday mornings at the Hermitage we practice Centering prayer.

One Saturday, Kevin lead morning prayer, offering us these words: centering prayer is a simple prayer of focusing our attention toward God. But it is also a difficult prayer as our minds are not accustomed to being quiet or silent.  When our thoughts wander (as mine often does) we return to our original intention of focusing our minds on God. We can do this by focusing on our breath or having a sacred word in which we return to when our thoughts wander.

My sacred word is “Love” because Love is the essence of God.

My brain often sounds like squawking blue-jays, demanding attention, squawking louder and louder until I turn my attention on whatever is clamoring for my attention. Sometimes the demand is very quotidian such as, don’t forget milk at the grocery store.

I return to the word Love, mentally repeating it until my thoughts settle down and clear.

On this Saturday, I am more challenged than usual to move into an interior silence. I slept just a few hours the previous night as I was brooding over some harsh words that had been said during a meeting. While their words weren’t directly pointed toward me I was part of the situation that upset them. My spirit was crushed and I was hurt and angry.

The scenes from the meeting kept resurfacing with all my feelings I attached to the words. I kept returning to Love. I was struggling to focus on God.

            Breathe in—breathe out. Love

            Breathe in—breathe out. Love

            Breathe in—breathe out. Love

As I calmed down and returned to my intention of focusing on God these words came: invite this person to tea.

With those words—which I believe came from Love—my inner turmoil dissipated. My brooding lifted and I was able to experience inner silence.

Later I did contact the individual to schedule a time for tea. The tension between us eased and I was grateful. Mind you, this does not happen every time I prayer but that Saturday morning it happened.I am learning, from my experience and listening to others—that silence can open us. When we become silent, if we can move through our resistance to silence, we can hear God whisper. We gain clarity and discernment arrives. We hear God.

The Hospitality of Silence – by Kevin Driedger

Comfortable chair at window with winter scene

Silence is a core practice, a core value, a core gift of The Hermitage. Silence welcomes us no matter our rank or status, no matter our theological or political preferences. Silence enfolds and embraces us no matter our desires or fears. But silence does not force itself upon us. Silence is there to be received, or not. It is ready to engage us in deep attentiveness, or just passing exploration. 

The experience of silence draws many people to our retreat center, although not without trepidation for some. Our desire is that the silence of this place will be received as a welcoming space that receives each guest 

When we introduce new retreatants to the Hermitage there are two things I try to mention: “We offer each other the gift of silence” and “We practice a gentle silence.” 

We recognize that each retreatant is here to do their own work and be attentive to their relationship with God. We honor this by not intruding on their space with noise or conversation.

When I greet guests who seem particularly anxious about the silence I offer the statement about the gentle silence. The silence at the Hermitage is not strident and absolute; it is not to be a source of fear. If you have a question, please ask it. If you have an insight needing to be shared, please share it. 

One of our characteristic practices at is eating meals in silence. For people new to silence this particular experience of silence in community causes some people anxiety. Silence alone in your room is one thing, silence at a meal table, with a group of people is shockingly counter-cultural. And yet, once that initial unsettling settles down, the silence of communal meals can also be received as an expression of deep hospitality. In it, we all receive the other guests as they are without social expectations or demands.

Silence welcomes us into a relationship with God free from noisy distractions. And in this silence we are open to turn the ear of our heart to listen to our welcoming God.