There’s an old saying, “Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know.” Sometimes words and other sensory stimuli take over so much of our lives that we grow afraid of stillness and silence. It is my firm conviction that no spiritual life can remain healthy forever without some regular retreat into silence and stillness.
To that end, I organized a silent meditation group that has been going strong every Monday night in the Chancel of the Church since December 2011. In it we practice a form of Centering Prayer, which is a prayer practice of ‘self-emptying,’ letting go of thoughts, distractions, memories, noises, etc., as they come into the mind, and stay in the presence of inner silence for the duration of the meditation session.
A contemplative practice such as this one can be found in every one of the world’s mainline religions. “Silence is God’s first language,” said the 16th-century mystic St. John of the Cross. Learning to practice intentional silence is a little like learning a new language; it takes practice, and sometimes it requires an “immersion experience” such as we are doing in our group setting. We meet in the Chancel of the church (the area between the choir stalls up near the main altar) and all are welcome, regardless of background or experience.
The goal of meditation is not to “get good at it” or to have euphoric experiences. The goal is to do the practice regardless of what the subjective experience might be one session to the next, and to let the practice bear fruit over time in one’s life over the long haul. As the great meditation teachers say, in a practice of contemplative silence, the only thing you can do wrong is to get up and walk out.
–The Rev. Elizabeth Garnsey