Silence in Spiritual Direction

Silence is sometimes referred to as God’s first language. But how you feel about silence probably has a lot to do with your personality type, your neurological make-up and your upbringing. Introverts may be more comfortable with silence than extroverts. People who were punished with “the silent treatment” may avoid silence at all costs.

No matter how you feel about quieting down and being in silence, I’m going to encourage you to befriend it. Even if you can only be in silence for a few minutes a day, give it a try.

Our lives have become so loud, hurried and chaotic that our souls are starved for some down time. Redemptorist retreat leader, Fr. Tom Santa calls silence “the essential nutrient of our souls.”

Spiritual direction reveres silence. It is a place where you can begin and end a conversation with silence.  We give you time to pause and be with your thoughts and feelings. Spiritual directors usually draw you into silence from time to time. “Let’s go into silence and ask God’s Spirit to nurture you around that question.”

I like to ask that in one form or another, take some silence and then ask “What happened for you in the silence?” So many times directees find a word, phrase, image or a feeling that provides some clarity.

If you are unsure about silence, begin to warm up to it with this simple practice:

  1. Ask God to be especially present to you in the silence.
  2. Let go of expectations and relax.
  3. Sit for 3-5 minutes (use a timer on your cellphone if you want) in silence. Pay attention to one of your senses—hearing, sight, touch, taste or smell. If and when your mind wanders from that sense and jumps about, say to yourself, “I’m returning to this moment.” And return to your direct experience of the present moment.
  4. When time is up, say a prayer of gratitude for God’s presence in your direct experience.
  5. As you become more comfortable with a few minutes of silent, direct experience, expand to 10-15 minutes.

For more about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website. If you have questions or comments about the content of Spiritual Direction 101, please let me hear from you in the reply section below.


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