Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: A Space of Grace
We are so used to doing, getting information, making decisions. Our fight-flight mechanisms get way overstimulated, given our stressful modern life. And that was very true even before the advent of the pandemic. So... just pause. Just for a moment. Take a deep breath. Allow beauty. Allow peace. Allow breathing. Allow a space of grace.
This tool is from the first Toolkit. Here's the Index of all toolkits. And The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.
The other day I was listening to the radio--I don't remember the show or the context. But I do remember someone saying that the words "silent" and "listen" are composed of exactly the same letters.
Of course I could say, "Well, that's kind of trite, or contrived." Or "That's just a coincidence of language." On the other hand, it could be an opportunity for reflection:
-- If I am not silent very much during a conversation, maybe I am not listening very well?
-- If someone is silent for a while in a conversation with me, maybe they are truly listening?
-- Can I receive that?
I believe there are many varieties of silence. Those of us who are introverts appreciate the silence of time alone, which feels essential to our mental health. It is usually by choice, and though it involves a temporary cessation of interaction, it is not meant to shut down connections. In fact, it often accomplishes the opposite, allowing the introvert to come back to the relationship refreshed.
There's another kind which is much more difficult--the silence of intense absence, physical and/or emotional. It can be rather painful, and is usually not the choice of the one who has been left. Sometimes the one leaving does it willfully, even maliciously. And sometimes, out of fear or some other compulsion, they may not be able to keep from going. It may be particularly difficult to deal with this kind of silence if one has a history of abandonment. I know that kind. It is not fun.
There is, of course, the silence of death--an astounding, profound, confounding and inexplicable thing for sentient and biological beings like us to try to deal with. This kind of silence may echo through all the places the person used to be, leaving us full and yet oh so empty at the same time. I believe that healing for this deepest silence can come, in part, from a final variety of silence, described below.
This kind stems from presence, the presence of someone who is truly listening. This is compassionate silence, in which the listener offers space and non-verbal support to the speaker. This kind of silence stems from a special kind of mindfulness, a mindfulness of the heart.
Shakespeare, near the beginning of his play, Coriolanus, has his titular character call his wife "my gracious silence." I realize that may irritate some people who think women have been relegated to being "seen and not heard" for far too long. But stepping back from that interpretation, I can simply appreciate the wonderful concept of a gracious silence. A silence that is full of grace, kind, present but not pressing, offering ease and connection. From that perspective, "my gracious silence" becomes a lovely thing to call one's spouse or friend.
When God seems silent, I tend to feel abandoned. But perhaps it is a gracious silence, a listening silence. Or perhaps She is communicating non-verbally, directly, or indirectly via nature or a friend or a work of art. Instead of assuming abandonment, perhaps I can shift gears just a little, and let go, at least a bit, into some edge of gracious silence myself, leaving words behind. Stretching to try to allow in a little bit of hope instead of falling into despair. Perhaps then I will be able to receive some of that graciousness, that Silence, that Someone, that has been there all along.
Some of the sweetest times I've had with another person are those in which we simply sat near each other, without the need to speak. This kind of silence is indeed gracious. And often healing.
Photos can offer their own variety of silence, speaking beautifully without words. So I close with several photos that I hope will offer you the spaciousness and connection of gracious silence, and perhaps some comfort for any grief you may be feeling.
Until next time,
Photo credits (all from unSplash)
Flower in pocket, Henri Lajarrge Lombard
Mother and child, Kelly Sikkema
Open door, Rowan Freeman
Desert, Dan Grinwis/Finding Dan
Rose, Taylor Cowling