This past weekend my husband and I went to a retreat studded with silence. A communal silence. Yes, there was laughter and conversation, music and chit-chat, but the periods of silence were the most resonant. Silence after prayer, after reading of the Psalms, before lunch, around a bonfire (of course, after and not while smores were being made). Sometimes the silence was suggested by those leading the retreat and sometimes - such as around the fire, when the logs had burned down to embers - the silence arose organically, a mutually-given gift of peace. A shared comfort and understanding. A new friend said with a catch in her voice that the silence was so present she could touch it.
Towards the end of this weekend cycling of words and refraining from words, I led a short hands-on writing workshop. No words in the air but words spilling out on paper. Sometimes you have to stop the flow of the first in order to open the flow of the second. I loved the smiles breaking out as discoveries were made, personal messages that emerge when you fill pages and then sit with them for awhile. Even through this, though, we sat together at tables and the writing silence was communal. I’m quite sure the silence feeds the writing, and community feeds personal discovery. Paradox abounds.
[Photo: Taken on walk on said retreat; walk was in silence but I do admit to checking my email while walking.]