Wisdom on How to Begin Practicing Silence — A Quote by J. Brent Bill in “Holy Silence”

“So how do you begin the practice of holding silence? One way to begin is to start by either sitting or lying down; whichever is more comfortable and appropriate… Then close your eyes and take a deep breath. Inhale and exhale slowly. Then do it even more slowly. It will seem forced at first… Feel your body gently rise and fall as you inhale and exhale.”

“As you breathe, listen for the voice of the Spirit. Even listen for your own voice. What are you saying to you? What is God saying? Don’t expect to hear or sense something immediately. This isn’t something that happens after one or two breaths… Relax into silence.”

“If you’re having a hard time focusing on the silence, you might want to use a word or verse of Scripture or a prayer. Think about the various names given to Jesus — Emmanuel, the Word, the Light, Prince of Peace, Morning Star, and the Good Shepherd. For many of us, the first steps we take into the world of silence are through the words of prayer. I used the Lord’s Prayer…”

“[In your head and with your heart] you may want to sing, recite Scripture, remember something you’ve read, or call to mind some special spiritual words or phrases. All of these — and any others you come up with — are okay. Remember, Quakers have no rulebook. Use these as tools to help you focus on the eternal rather than the external.”

“When you first begin practicing silence you might find it hard to stay focused. Your thoughts may wander. That’s okay. The way of silence is not easy… Nothing worth doing seems to be achieved quickly… ‘The mind wanders and the will falters again and again,’ writes Thomas Green. ‘… But it is foolish to allow failures in concentration ‘to plunge us into profitless self-condemnation’…. God is similarly pleased with our efforts and understanding of our many failures.’ God will meet you in the effort. Don’t get discouraged if your thoughts turn from the deep stuff of the Spirit to that ugly crack in the ceiling that you’ve been meaning to fix. Don’t worry about it. The crack in the ceiling is part of your life, too. It is fine to be present where you are.”

“When the crack, or other distractions, begin bothering you, bring yourself back to your breath. The more you practice, the easier it gets — the more relaxed you become.”

— J. Brent Bill, “Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality”, pp 80-83

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