Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Vicar's Sofa: Silence for the Very Chatty

Well, first things first, I am now ordained! Crikey, I hardly know what to do with myself (quite literally!) and there will be more on that to come I am sure but first I wanted to post a little something on the days leading up to ordination which involved a silent retreat. Yup, it was time for silence for the very, very chatty. Gulp.

As anyone who encountered me before the retreat will know I did a fair amount of humphing and grumphing (a technical term...!) about this before hand because, well, I find it pretty hard to sit down and shut up for any extended period time. Said like a true blogger eh?
Partly I was worried about spending the few days before a life changing event in silence because I tend to process things through talking. I hardly know what I think until I have got it out of my head and in to words and somehow the conversation helps me to know where I am at on things.

The gorgeous location and weather helped a great deal this time!
I've tried one silent retreat before and it was all wonderfully bizarre. I was the only person in the retreat house which reminded me intensely of the Beast's Castle in Beauty and the Beast. So much so that I expected the silverwaree to start speaking to me in a French accent by day two. As it was I would have been bloomin' grateful for that because being alone for that length of time was even harder than not speaking. I tried to befriend the housekeeper but even she wouldn't have me!

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I absolutely loved this silent retreat before ordination. From the moment we were told that we could no longer speak to one another I felt this great sense of relief. The weeks and month leading up to this crazy season of my life have been utterly frantic. I have met so many new people and made so many decisions that being locked in a room with books and having meals provided at regular intervals was utter bliss.

Here's a top retreat trip - gin in a can and a good book!

But what I really found was that it was wonderful to be alone with my own thoughts. I realised that from the moment I open my eyes in the morning to the moment I go to bed I so rarely have more than half an hour without interaction with someone else whether that is in person or online. It is not that this interaction is bad, just that it is alters you and changes your thoughts and feelings. Being on retreat I was able to sustain a series of my own thoughts for days without interruption. It was wonderful.

That, in itself, is enough to recommend seeking out some silence but for those of you more spiritually inclined it was also immensely good for my soul. I had a chance to think, really think, about my life, where I had been, where I was going and what all that meant to me.

I had a chance to listen and talk to God, who after all is the only one who has any real answers for me anyway. It turned out that the things I needed to hear where so ridiculously simple that I was almost amazed that I needed to hear them. Small but fundamental things like knowing that I am loved, that I am cared for, that this next stage of things is so firmly in God's hands that quite frankly I just need to chill the frick out.

I think it helped me to be retreating with other people, just their presence was lovely even if they weren't speaking, and regular little talks from the retreat leader broke up the days. When the silence ended I was bit gutted really and I sort of missed it somehow.

Now that I'm back in the real world (as real as it can possible be for me in this strange new role!) I really want to hold onto some of what I experienced, to take time out to just let my own thoughts run, to give myself a little time where no one, not even myself, is asking anything of me. Well, that's the plan anyway!


  1. Ah, sounds brill. I have done a silent day retreat and have thought about doing a longer one. The first time I did a day one was very odd but the second time I was like 'Yay I don't have to make conversation with anyone!'. It is definitely a relief and we never take that time - if I am alone I am checking my phone!

    1. Yep, those bloomin' phones! I wonder if it does get easier with time once you get over the weirdness factor. Interesting!

  2. I still remember the time I got made to do one of those, and I think about two hours in I called you on the phone because I was being driven so batty!

    Also loving the book choice. Nothing like a bit of Mma Ramotswe wisdom.

    1. Oh yes, I live by Mma Ramotswe wisdom in all things!