It was during a slow day at work late in the Spring when I found this book on my boss’s shelf. We shared an office at the time, and she had encouraged me to read her books when I had nothing else to do. (What can I say? I have a really awesome boss!) With my love for silence, the title, Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality, immediately caught my eye. When I realized that the author, J. Brent Bill, was a friend of hers and someone to whom she had once introduced me at a business meeting, I decided it looked like an interesting way to pass my time until she returned from an off-site meeting.
Interesting is not quite the right word this book. Absorbing might be a little closer. I don’t think I got another useful thing done that afternoon, and the first thing I did when she arrived in the office later that day was to ask for permission to take it home with me. I finished it the next day.
After spending over a year of intense time in training—first as a yoga teacher, then as a life coach—while also working, maintaining house and yard, and trying to have a social life, this introvert found herself completely exhausted as summer began to roll around and I finally wrapped up all of that training time. I read book after book about silence and solitude for weeks trying to help fill this craving for time alone and away that I just couldn’t (and still can’t) quite get enough of. So this book appeared in perfect time for what I needed on my journey.
In this book, Brent explores the gift of silence from a Quaker perspective. One of the primary characteristics of Quaker worship is that of waiting in silence to listen for the voice of God, or for the Inner Light, as it is often referred to. He looks at the challenges of finding (and learning to appreciate) this kind of silence in our busy, noisy world and at the rich blessings that can come from making silence and listening an important part of our lives.
Throughout the book, he moves back and forth between sharing stories of his own life and experience with silence and providing explanations, insights, and guidance about the importance and value of silence. This weaving of personal narrative into the text enhances the beauty of his message by providing immediate encouragement by example of the power of this listening practice.
In addition, he uses the Quaker practice of queries, challenging questions that help us to ponder more deeply the application of spiritual principles to our lives, throughout the text to encourage immediate consideration of how each idea is relevant to our own lives. There are additional queries collected together in an appendix to the book that provide further resources for deeper reflection. On example of a Quietude Query (as he calls them) from the book is ” How could taking time for silence enlarge my day?” Each time a Quietude Query is presented, he encourages taking a moment to relax, breathe deeply, put down the book, and think deeply about the query and its relevance for ourselves.
While this consideration of silence obviously brings a Quaker viewpoint to the practice, I think that his words would apply to anyone who is interested in using silence and listening as part of their spiritual practice. One needs not be Quaker to learn from their rich history of working intensively with silence. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to expand their practice of silence—or even someone who has never experienced this kind of silence but is curious to learn more.
This is a treasure trove of wisdom on the value, the beauty, and the joy that can be found in listening to God speak in the silence. I know that I will be reading this one time and again as I deepen my own journey with silence.
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.