the church of which i am a part has been holding a brief taizé service on sunday afternoons that includes simple songs, scripture lessons, spoken prayers, and periods of silence. there is no sermon, and the central portion of the service consists of ten minutes of silence. for most americans that is an interminable length of quiet time, and it is quite uncomfortable for many. i remember the comment of a friend at the end of one of these services. she said, "i can't be still and quiet for that long. my mind is just too busy, and i have to be doing something to occupy myself."
when i was a teacher, during the last part of each school year, i asked my students to enter the classroom silently and to sit in silence for the first five minutes of class. after each period of silence, i would ask them for their reactions. some said that they were most uncomfortable, that it was all but impossible for them to be still and quiet for that long. others said that they found the experience quite enjoyable, that this was the first time they ever remembered being still and quiet for that long with no written work to occupy their minds. many commented on the noises around them from outside the room, noises they had never heard before. some would talk about the noise from the students who were having lunch in the courtyard below our room, suggesting they were much too rowdy. some commented on the singing of birds outside the window and how beautiful their songs were. some commented on the voice of teachers in nearby rooms as they conducted their classes. my students realized that these noises had been there all along and were amazed that pausing to listen would reveal so much going on around them.
when we began our taizé services, i was grateful, because i longed for more silence in worship. our normal sunday morning worship, while reverent and beautiful, leaves no "dead" spaces; every moment is filled with something audible. this past sunday, i was the leader for the taizé service, so it was my responsibility to be the time-keeper for the ten-minute silence. as i sat, i began a loving-kindness meditation wishing an ever-widening circle of blessing and happiness. i was amazed at how quickly the ten minutes passed; i would have been glad to have more time to continue enlarging my circle of loving-kindness.
my prayer today is that each of us will experience periods of undistracted silence each day and that those moments of silence will fill each of us with open hearts and wishes of blessing and happiness. shalom.