We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. We choke the space with continuous music, chatter, and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I can recall an acquaintance once remarking that each of us is troubled by something and it becomes the dominant thought in our head—whether it’s an argument with our spouse, a perceived public slight, our finances, a conflict at work—and that once we resolve one issue, our next most pressing conflict comes rushing to the forefront.
You might call this the noise of everyday life.
To the Trappist monk and noted author Thomas Merton, noise represented one of the biggest problems of our modern society—because when our heads are filled with noise, whether it’s self-generated or comes from our immediate environment, we go through life off balance and disconnected from our spiritual nature. In his book No Man is an Island, Merton writes that:
Everything in modern city life is calculated to keep man from entering into himself and thinking about spiritual things. Even with the best of intentions, a spiritual man finds himself exhausted and deadened, debased by the constant noise of machines, the dead air and glaring lights of offices and shops, the everlasting suggestions of advertising and propaganda.
John Michael Talbot, founder of the Little Portion Hermitage in Arkansas, explains the problem in a similar manner: “The world’s noise has a way of deflecting people from the deeper realities of life. It keeps us preoccupied with the superficial at the expense of the meaningful.” Or, as Anne Morrow Lindberg so eloquently states in the quote at the top of the page, noise stops us from hearing the “inner music”.
How do we hear the inner music? By making time for stillness and solitude.
Talbot encourages us to take breaks from the stresses of the everyday, writing that places like monasteries, retreat centers and hermitages (which literally means the dwelling place of hermits), were created “so that people who wanted to hear the still, small voice of God could turn down the deafening and disquieting cacophony of sounds coming from a busy, bustling world.”
But since most of us have families and jobs and a retreat is out of the question, how do we find the space to hear our thoughts? Where can we access the silence and solitude that, in the words of Merton, allow us to “recuperate spiritual powers that may have been gravely damaged by the noise and rush of a pressurized existence”?
We need to set time aside to recharge our spiritual batteries.
You can do it in your own home. For me, this especially holds true on Sundays as I get ready for the new week. It’s a time to detach from work, and as Merton says “see all things in the light of faith.” This means expressing gratitude for the good in our life, asking for guidance with those things that trouble us, and trusting that our needs and concerns will be addressed.
(People) need enough silence and solitude in their lives to enable the deep inner voice of their true self to be heard at least occasionally. ~Merton
Is your schedule jam-packed with work, chores and family responsibilities 7 days a week? I suggest you can carve out this time early in the morning or later at night. Set the alarm 30 minutes earlier a couple of days a week. Say good-night to your significant other and retreat to the den or the quietest part of your home. Find the time for solitude. Talbot puts this in a religious context:
There’s nothing magical about solitude that makes God suddenly appear. God is everywhere all the time. It’s just that most of the time we are so busy with everything else that we don’t notice. But by practicing the discipline of solitude, we are creating a space in our lives where God can be with us.
When will you make time to hear the “inner music”?