Looking over the packaged fruits and veggies at the market, I noticed a container marked “Elegant Berry Blend.” My dorky imp (impish dork?) kicked in and thought, “What if I don’t want to pay that much? Do they have a Business Casual Berry Blend?”
A similar question of relative value came up as I tinkered with my rule of life. (If that’s a new concept you can see some examples here.)
I was reflecting upon the Carmelite Order’s Rule of St. Albert, which includes this call to nightly silence,
The apostle therefore recommends silence, when he tells us to work in it; the prophet too testifies that silence is the promotion of justice; and again, in silence and in hope will be your strength. Therefore we lay down that from the recitation of Compline you are to maintain silence until after Prime the following day. (21)
If you’ve been to a retreat house operated by a major religious order, you’ve likely experienced the Great Silence that Albert is describing, which is observed after the final night prayers until after one of the morning services or even through breakfast.
Like many spiritual exercises, it’s uncomfortable at first. You get edgy and aren’t sure if even eye contact is OK when passing people in the hallways during the silence. Like, aren’t you supposed to voice “Good night” or “How’s it going?” or “What do you know, dude?” or some other small talk?
But once you settle in, the silence is indeed Great. Reading is more focused, prayer less distracted and even more spontaneous, and sleep is deeper.
But how to incorporate this into daily life outside of a monastery or hermit’s cave? Spouses don’t like to be cold shouldered and kids have precious questions and needs which are to them emergencies no matter what time of night. Besides which, Jesus doesn’t look well on using piety to ignore others.
So, like swapping Business Class Berry Blend for the Elegant version, I’m seeking a “so so silence” instead of the Great version.
For now, this involves staying off of the computer after 8 pm. That really does silence a lot of inner, mental noise without pushing away my family. Seems to be improving the quality of conversation, prayer and sleep as well.
Other ideas for stuff that we can so-so silence?