The Power of Silence

Once again I was wrong. Once again it was due to my over-inflated belief that my way is the only way. Once again the error of my way was spoken to my heart in a moment of silence.

You can call it God, Universal Power, The Inner Guide, Your Higher Self or whatever you please. The point of the matter is that silence matters. For me, it especially matters when seeking guidance as to how to live.

Ironically, the incident I am referring to, the matter in which I was wrong, involved a call for a silence. For those not familiar with the workings of 12-step meetings let me explain. After a few brief announcements, meetings often begin with the chairperson calling for a moment of silence followed by a recitation of The Serenity Prayer.

We alcoholics and addicts are an impatient lot. By “moment of silence” we emphasize “moment” rather than “silence.” Three to five seconds is the norm. For those of us who fancy ourselves spiritually evolved we might even mix in a deep cleansing breath or two during the silence… but let’s get to The Serenity Prayer ASAP. Then we can get to our favorite part of the meeting: talking about our favorite topic, ourselves.

I thought I had this routine down pat before this school called Life decided to whack me upside the head.

You see a few weeks ago I began attending a meeting where the chairperson, a man I knew well, forgot how things are done. At the start of the meeting he made the call for silence. I did my deep breaths and was primed to recite the Serenity Prayer… but nothing happened. Everyone was  just sitting in silence. The chairperson actually leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes tight. (I know, I peeked.) The clock ticked on. Still more silence. My butt got a little antsy. “What the heck!,” my mind screamed, “get to the prayer!… “I need some damn serenity!”

We finally got on with things. For all I know what transpired next may have been a very good meeting. I was too distracted to focus. Get me home so I can gossip with my wife about what transpired. That whole silent “stunt” had to be a desperate call for attention. Go figure, an alcoholic making everything about himself. What a pompous ass. That chairperson needed a verbal dressing down and I was the one to deliver it.

The next week rolled around. Same meeting. Same chairperson. I sat as the clock ticked on and scoffed at this preening, silent nonsense. “This has to stop.”

Ever the passive aggressive, this time I had a plan. We share on the ticket system at this meeting. Surely mine would be drawn. I had the perfect joke planned to mock this practice. I would win people to my side with humor and put an end to this nonsense.

So yeah, my ticket was never drawn.

Funny thing, during these same weeks I was reading extensively on the power of silence and penning a blog post laying out how invaluable this practice is. You see my wife and I are both in recovery and regularly adhere to the 11th Step: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God and we understand God.” We even have a room in our home set aside for prayer and meditation. Like I said, silence matters. “Be still and know I am God.”

It is when I am quiet that the universe speaks. I am not talking about prophesies related to the fate of the world–my bipolar meds take care of that. I am not talking about the selfish desires of my heart– like winning Powerball numbers. It is far more practical than that. When I am still I am able to see the errors of my ways and the amends I need to make. When I am still the next steps I am to take that day reveal themselves.

Having received tangible benefits from silence over the years I recently even adopted a practice I saw shared by a monk in a Facebook video. He encourages us to seize every possible moment of silence, no matter how short. Stuck in the 10-items-or-less lane behind someone with 18 items? Breath, be still.

Though I am slow on the uptake, eventually during a period of silent meditation I saw the error of judging that chairperson with no internal stopwatch. He was giving me exactly what I was searching for in so many other situations—a moment to be quiet with the my Higher Power. Had he flipped to being a pompous ass since I last knew him? Or had I let my judgmental nature run awry? The answer was clear.

Once again my flawed thinker was put on display. Once again I had a chance to mend my ways. Once again that guidance came not as a roar, but a whisper.


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