Faith Friday: Silence: A Response to Today's Chaos and Disillusionment
"Everyone needs to find a spiritual practice that nourishes our inner garden. Silence is one of the best tools we have."
In a world where social media are traps and echo chambers, hyper-partisan opinions dominate media discourse and lies are referred to as 'alternative facts' to serve state propaganda I have come to value silence.
The challenge today is to not become cynical and to preserve our humanness. To find our voice and not become drowned by other voices as we 'make space for the other'. To be empowered and to empower each other. To listen actively and compassionately instead of doing it to compete or debate. To read between the lines and see the how brokenness is at the core of many hurt and angry individuals. To bring light where there is darkness and that always begins with taking care of our inner light first.
"All too often people impose their own experience and beliefs on acquaintances and events, making hurtful, inaccurate and dismissive snap judgements, not only about individuals but about whole cultures." — Karen Armstrong on why we should 'make space for the other', Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
There isn't only one way to be strong but it's important to avoid despair, disillusionment and participating in harmful discourse by separating yourself from the chaos when you need to. Do we live in a depressing world or is the news simply depressing? One of the reasons I'm passionate about media and communications is because I see the power of media in our lives. They can inform us, emotionally move us, persuade us to desire goods and lifestyles and also distract us from reality/truth.
Unlike the magic bullet theory suggests, we are not passive media viewers/consumers. We can use/consume the media responsibly and take accountability for the state of our hearts and minds. There isn't only one narrative about any issue out there and the media certainly doesn't reflect all of reality but only a portion of it or rather, bite-sized portions curated to make stories digestible and fit into an existing narrative.
Having said that, is the outside world a reflection of our collective inner states? How do we find inspiration, clarity and purpose in times of inner and outer turmoil? During an era of constant and instant communication I find silence and taking time to reflect before I say or do things helps me with my inner state and decisions. And it is something I need to do more of. Scientists claim silence can benefit the brain in a multitude of ways, from providing stress relief, restoring our attention and regenerating new brain cells. Various faiths, such as Islam, advocate silence and meditation as a means of seeking closeness to God and finding peace in our lives. For example, Muslim scholars like Rumi and Ibn Ata'illah have written extensively on the importance of spiritual seclusion and dhikr (remembrance of God) during reflection.
source: Al Hikam: The Wisdom of Ibn Ata'illah
Being an extrovert, I gain energy and ideas by interacting with others but only in times of silence I receive divine inspiration (hidayah). Therefore, do not mistake silence for passiveness or lack of thought or action. As my friend Tracie shared with me, "We are conditioned to believe that silence is a negative thing. Silence is for those who have no voice, either physically or culturally, and is seen as something to be avoided in some ways." It's time to challenge this mental conditioning about silence because done with the right intention, silence is an act of finding harmony, balance, meaning and tranquility in our lives. Remind yourself of your agency and power, study a range of perspectives and surround yourself with people who inspire, encourage and challenge you. Ask yourself the tough questions: what are my larger aspirations in life and how am I fulfilling them?
Make time for silence, pause, listen and reflect on what needs to be done before returning to your craft and your means for creating beauty in the world again.
"Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation." — Rumi