Silence In The Midst of Noise

I am sitting inside my little cottage high above the Pacific Ocean at the Hermitage of New Camaldoli in Big Sur, CA, the breeze from the chilly waters below is blowing through the open windows, and I can hear the sound of countless birds calling outside. 

It’s pretty awesome, I must say.  There is no internet, no cell phone coverage, and the few others who are on retreat here are, like me, abiding by the rule of silence.  

I’ll be honest, I’ve spoken to a few of the monks here, but only when they’ve talked to me and the various bookstore clerks, but that’s been sporadic at best.  What I’ve been doing, however, is trying to learn what it means to be quiet, disconnected from the world, and introspective. 

When you have hours at a time with nothing but your own thoughts to keep you company, it can be challenging if you are someone like me.  I’m used to noise—and a lot of it.  Even now, I am listening to music, but it’s soft, introspective music, to be fair.

What I really mean is I am used to the noise of life.  

My life is typically pretty noisy with everything that must be done for work and family.  I’m constantly reminded of things begging for my attention because of the incessant beeps and hums on my phone indicating new text messages, emails, and other assorted notifications.  

The phone has been silent these past many days, and honestly, I wish I could figure out a way to continue it without making everyone in my life frustrated.  

So this week, I’ve prayed, rested, journaled, attended worship services a couple of times a day led by the monks, gone on long walks in the woods, read a couple of books, and written—a lot.   I finished a book I’ve been working on for almost a year, wrote several daily devotions, and prepared some of the sermons I’ll be preaching when I return to work. 

As I wrote all that down, I was amazed because it didn’t feel like I was working because of the amount of time I spent doing other quiet, life-giving things. 

I marvel at the monks here because many are accomplished artists whose works are displayed and sold.  Some of them are amazing craftsmen and woodworkers. Others have written extensively about theology, contemplative practices, and the like.  

Like I said, it’s incredible what you can do when you have a lot of time to devote to it. 

But I’d make a terrible monk.  I’m not terribly good at following rules; I feel there are a lot of them.  I also couldn’t go to church multiple times a day, all of the time.  The food is not that great either.  I must confess that the taco truck parked at the bottom of the mountain saved me a couple of evenings.  And then there’s the whole celibacy thing—no thanks. 

I am pondering how to take some of this with me when I return to my noisy life.  How do I keep the noise at bay enough to quiet my soul?  What practices can I employ daily that give me sanctuary?  Are things in my life that distract me that I need to let go of? 

These are questions that we all should be asking ourselves.  Because the real test for inner peace is to carry it with you wherever you go, despite what is happening around you.  

May this be your quest as much as possible, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen. 

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