Almost all religious and faith traditions, as well as many non-religious cultures, celebrate silence and take silence as their spiritual foundation. From monastic vows, to meditative contemplation, from mindfulness practices, to retreats in nature, the quietude is seen as invaluable in focusing our attention on what is deeply within, but also what is beyond ourselves, in preparation for prayers, and in anticipation of divine wisdom.
In our current world, silence has become increasingly challenging especially where there are relentless noises and soundbites coming from all sources and media. Even if we take courage and plunge into silence, it is not always easy to sustain it. Silence requires nurturing as an awareness, and needs cultivating as an aspect of our being.
Silence is more than the absence of noise, words, or sounds, instead, it is a complete (inner) quietude and stillness that inhabit openness, reflectiveness and love. Indeed, in silence, we become truly open and tune in with what is being availed to us, which would otherwise be drowned in the constant influx and agitation. In being open, we begin to ground our self in the here and now, and in being itself. By dwelling in our being, we can then reflect and contemplate on our relationship with our experiences, thoughts and feelings directed both inwardly at our self, and outwardly towards others and the world. By encouraging such attunement and attention, silence is where love resides deeply within us, in our encounter with others, and in our being-with all things in nature and the transcendent.
Silence gives rise to what cannot be said or found expressible, and to what is sensed, experienced and noticed. The creative nature of our ethical life is thus brought forward in our collective silence.
Silence is rich in its forms and contents. Through silence, and in silence, the threads of our thinking, doing, living and praying are interwoven into the wholeness of being.
More importantly, silence is not isolation, nor seclusion, but on the contrary, silence is intensely relational, and hence profoundly communal. Collective silence invites solidarity, inclusivity, harmony and mutual presence.
In practice, during the SoH Forums:
Silence is perceived as a mystery – we do not seek any explanation to its power and magic; nor do we privilege any particular kind of silence. All paths to silence are invited and welcome, allowing diverse expressions of our shared realities to be articulated.
Silence is appreciated as a common value – we do not treat silence as a means to an end, but instead, we recognise the intrinsically valuable nature of silence which is meaningful and worthwhile in itself.
Silence is embraced as a relational bond – it draws people of all backgrounds together in a common sacred space or in communing.
Silence is experienced as mutual presence – one of the ways of being love and doing love, of being peace and making peace, together.
Silence is carried forward as an aspiration – it is in silence that we explore our mutual moral growth through spiritual formation and transformation.
Silence is inhabited as an intentional commitment – it is in such dedication that we offer and receive the enriching and generative gift of care for and from each other.
Hence during our gatherings, we intentionally make available such spaces for collective silence.
Silence is not a thing we do, but a way we are.
Silence is where talking ends and listening begins.
by Dr Scherto Gill, representative of one of the Forum’s partners Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace
Icelandic landscape photo: Peter Damo