I have never spent more than a few hours in silence. I like to talk. I like being around people, so the idea of spending a week in silence as a part of my sabbatical made me nervous, but I also felt strongly that I needed to do this. On Friday, July 12th, I began a silent retreat as a guest of the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. For the next six days, the only words spoken were in worship. Even meals were taken alone in my room.
My days were structured around worship and Centering Prayer. The Vigils service was held daily at 5:30 AM. Lauds was held at 7:00 AM. Noonday Prayer was at 12:15 PM and Vespers with mass was at 5:30 or 6:00 PM. There was a half hour of communal silent meditation after the Vigils service in the evening. My own time was structured around Centering Prayer, journaling and walks. I spent between five and six hours each day in prayer, interspersed with long walks and time to reflect in my journal.
Prior to leaving for this retreat, my spiritual director (a kind of mentor or guide for my spiritual growth) suggested that I might benefit from learning to let go of outcomes in the various aspects of my life. As I contemplated this, I realized that when I am worrying about outcomes, I am no longer in the present moment. In prayer and journaling, I became deeply aware that only in this present moment can we experience the presence and love of God.
The words, “present moment, sacred moment” became a theme for my meditations. My silence became an exercise in being present, aware, and grateful. By the fourth day of the retreat, I was experiencing a profound depth of connection with Christ in worship, Centering Prayer, and during my walks.
What began in silence and prayer continues to unfold in my life. I find myself contemplating the nature of freedom in Christ and the ways that the world demands our attention and draws us away from the sacred. I look forward to exploring this more over the next year in sermons, teaching and articles.
Next week I will tell you about the solo Kayak trek I took in the San Juan Islands, enjoying another week of silence, this time in nature.
Yours in Christ,