Returning to Silence

 It’s been about five months since I’ve been able to attend the Immaculate Heart Center’s monthly invitation to Silent Saturday. A half day spent in centering prayer, short silent walks, individual reflection.
While I was working, I somehow missed this delightful half-day journey into silence.
But since retirement began in January, 
I made the effort to be there every month I was in town.
And then…we were gone for about three first Saturdays.
Then I was in spiritual direction training.
Then my mother was visiting.
And before I knew it, a very long time had gone by.
And I missed it.
 There is a 4 or 5 person leadership team that sets this up each month, all of them trained in Thomas Keating’s methodology for contemplative prayer, 
each of them gracious and kind.
One is a nun, the others are committed laypeople, and one of those laywomen sets out a lovely table each month.
Saturday’s was done in the royal colors of Advent.
The table sits in the center of the large room that once served as the chapel for the convent housed in this gracious building, and it serves as a focal point as we begin to settle into the silence.
Surrounding the table with its central candle are about thirty arm chairs where attendees sit quietly, meditating on their chosen ‘word’ for three different 30 minute sessions of quiet reflection. Two of those sessions are followed by slow, deliberate walking in silence for ten minutes. The third is followed by about 45 minutes of individual silent or written reflection. There are large, beautiful grounds to be explored during those minutes and usually, 
I wander off to the creek or around to the garden. 
 This time, I chose to sit in an old church pew located 
on the front porch of our gathering space.
I loved the way the light and shadows played with the bike against the stone wall. And the tropical look of the bouganvillea and the tall palm, despite weather cool enough to require multiple layers as we sat in the sun.

 Every detail of this space is lovely, adding depth to the experience of quiet attentiveness and listening.
 Because I was meeting a friend for lunch, I opted out of the final walk and headed back to my car. And on the way spied this glory, a bunch of narcissus shining brightly in the cool sunlight.
 These sheltering oaks brought me gently back to the ‘real’ world, 
the one where I talk as well as listen,
the one where I buy cute Christmas clothes for the grandgirls,
where I make returns and pick up groceries and visit the drycleaners. 
But somehow, these hours of centering inhabit the crevices of my mind and my heart in ways that surprise me.
I’m not particularly ‘good’ at quieting my mind.
I find rabbit trails galore.
And yet…
And yet, something happens in me.
Things shift around a bit, become more comfy.
There is space for thoughtfulness,
for carefulness, for mind and heart-tending,
even at the mall.
So I rounded out the day by heading to the beach at sunset, choosing to walk vigorously for about 45 minutes, thanking God at each bend of the road for the day just past, celebrating the return of intentional silence to my life. 

Do you have a retreat center anywhere near where you live?
Have you tried taking some set-apart time to be quiet?
Joining L.L. Barkat and Laura Boggess for their Monday invitations to write about place and about ‘playing’ with God. Thanks for the regular invitations, friends. Love the company you keep.
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  1. Diana, I love reading about your morning retreat and seeing the photos. I would love to go to a retreat center regularly. I have been looking in this area but not finding anything. There is plenty of New Age-y, metaphysical stuff here in the Austin area, but nothing that I would want to participate in.

  2. In my younger days I was often stressed by what I perceived to be expectations of ministry… trying to be everything to everybody. I’ve never been to a retreat centre, but I found that a short time spent at the ocean always calmed me. The sound and sight of waves reminded me of God’s continuous presence and of his power. That time of contemplation and quietness always replenished me, and even now that’s where I go when I need to still the chaos. Of course, any moment set aside for quiet reflection is good, but there’s always been something special about the ocean for me.

  3. Sat, walked, breathed in and out with you as we read this this morning. Your beautiful photography provided the setting. Thank you.

    Stillness is difficult but we think our expectations have been too high. Our experience and that you write about has been also expressed by many others. Our minds are like rabbit trails or as Henri Nouwen described it: ‘A banana tree full of monkeys’. We are concentrating on and appreciating more each day the quite moments, short though they may be, of calm, peaceful silence.

    Thank you again Diana for sharing these beautiful thoughts. We are blessed by them.

    Peace and love, Judy and Jim

  4. This sounds so inviting.


  5. Diana, this sounds wonderful. You make me long for a silent retreat. These photos are breathtaking too. Love the idea of the walking between Centering sessions. My little Centering prayer group might be interested in that. I wish we had gotten to talk more at Laity! So many interests in common. I am so curious about your Spiritual Direction training. I’ve been participating in Spiritual Direction since the silent retreat this summer and I love it. *sigh* So many dreams, such little time.

  6. I love your encouragement Diana. This post is a beautiful invitation to come. The silent retreats I have been on have always filled me with more than I ever expected. But, it’s been a while. This makes me yearn for that again. p.s. I’ll have to share some time of how one of them gave me a moment of complete and utter hilarity… in silence, no less.

  7. Thank you for sharing this with those of us who haven’t had (or taken) this opportunity to refind our focus. Inspires me to look for one nearby.

  8. Meditating for 30 minutes around a candle. I’m afraid I’d fall asleep and set my hair on fire. 😉

    This sounds lovely. There’s the center I stayed at a couple times during Mom’s illness. It’s available for individual retreats but is about 4 hours away.

    I’ll have to look for something closer, perhaps. In the meantime, there’s always my yard. (If I ever go home again.) And Laity Lodge. 😀

    So glad you had this time.

  9. {sigh}

    Sounds so lovely, and the photos make it look so…warm. What a gift to have that place to visit, to still yourself, to focus on the Lord in prayer.

    I don’t have a place like that nearby…or if such a place exists, I don’t know about it.

  10. That sounds like such an interesting experience. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed the photos too.