Social Media… and Silence

Hi. My name is Carl and I'm a Facebook addict.("Hi, Carl!")This past weekend, against my better judgment, I got into an unpleasant debate in a Facebook group with a young person whom I do not know. No need to go into details here — let's just say that by the end, nobody was edified. Much of my weekend got swallowed up in a back-and-forth conversation that generated much more heat than light. I'm embarrassed that I allowed myself to get so thoroughly triggered, and that I kept going back f … [Read more...]

When Silence Rings

 A reader named Nick writes: I am interested in the subject of meditation and Christian meditation in general, but I have a minor concern. I would like to engage in practices like centering prayer, but in the instructions for these meditations, I often hear an emphasis on finding a silent place to engage in these activities. I don't have problems finding a silent place, but silence is not something that I carry with me. I have a condition called Tinnitus that causes me to perceive a rin … [Read more...]

Timothy Keller Gets Contemplation Wrong

Timothy Keller, the popular New York City Presbyterian pastor and author of several bestselling books, is out and about promoting his newest work, called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. I haven't read the book, and normally I would applaud a new book by a prominent author encouraging people to pray. But after reading an interview with Keller on MSNBC this morning, I'm nervous about this title. Based on the interview, at least, it seems that Keller has no idea what he's talking … [Read more...]

Talking about Silence: An Interview with Patrick Shen

Indie filmmaker Patrick Shen has made several award-winning documentaries, including Flight From Death (2003), a look at the human longing for immortality, and La Source (2012), an inspiring tale of an ordinary custodian's efforts to provide his hometown in Haiti with clean drinking water. But it's his current project that caught my eye: In Pursuit of Silence, a meditative film about the importance of silence for human beings — and the increasing noise that is drowning out silence in postmodern l … [Read more...]

“Empty yourself completely and sit waiting”

I sometimes get asked if contemplative prayer is "really Christian." When someone asks that question, it's usually because they have noticed the similarity between practices like centering prayer and eastern disciplines such as zazen or transcendental meditation. The fact that many practitioners of centering prayer or other silent prayer forms tend to be interested in interfaith dialogue is sometimes worrisome to others, who do not have a sense of being called to interfaith dialogue and who only … [Read more...]

“That God’s Love Might Live in Us” — A Few Lovely Words from Thomas Merton

I've been re-reading Thomas Merton's The Waters of Siloe for a class I'm teaching at the monastery. It's basically Merton's history of the Cistercian order, but it's also full of his insights into Cistercian spirituality (and monastic spirituality in general). I especially love the book because it devotes several pages to the founding of the monastery in Georgia, including a wonderful photograph of the monks sitting in front of the old barn where they lived when they first came to the … [Read more...]

The Silence of the Heart

In its very last paragraph, Norris J. Chumley describes Be Still and Know, his new book on contemplative silence (hesychia), as a "research study." And therein lies what is both wonderful and frustrating about this book.First, the frustration: the book reads like someone's PhD dissertation. While Chumley provides a concise historical survey of the development of hesychasm, or the practice of meditative silence through the Orthodox Jesus Prayer (Prayer of the Heart), and follows up the … [Read more...]