Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Silence is Golden

Last week marked the end of "The Convent" - a four part series on BBC Television, which took four ordinary women out of their lives and placed them in a Convent for 40 days and nights. This programme was the female version of the "The Monastery" in which five ordinary men stayed in a monastery for 40 days and nights. The length of time is not coincidental of course; 40 days and 40 nights is the amount of time that Jesus spent in the wilderness, resisting temptation (the basis for Lent) and the number 40 is very significant in other biblical aspects as well.

The women (and I'll concentrate on The Convent, because it's fresher in my mind) are expected to devote themselves, like the Nuns do, to contemplation, silence and prayer. This means rising at 5.00am, with seven church services to attend every day. This is a very taxing schedule, especially for some of the women, who are more used to controlling their own time and are finding this an unnecessarily harsh discipline.

Predictable rebellion

Almost predictably, most of them rebel in some form; not attending meetings or services, fraternising with each other in their rooms (this is not allowed), leaving the grounds of the Convent (nuns aren't allowed to leave the Convent, although there are some exceptions to this).

The nuns, in their wisdom, expect this and whilst they voice their displeasure at the rebellion, also realise that it is a sign of fear, worry and deep insecurity. The women are finding it difficult to face themselves and their fears and so breaking the rules operates as a form of distraction.

There really is nothing like 40 days and nights in a convent to start looking at yourself, your life and watch all of your cherished assumptions, beliefs and the identity you've based your life on fall away. At the end, one of the women wonders whether the disapproving voice she always thought belonged to other people and/or authority was really her own.

Surrender to what is

What the nuns realised was that the women needed to surrender to the discipline, to the silence, the routine and the structure, rather than fighting it and then they would get much more out of the experience. It would truly be life changing.

And they did surrender. Without exception all of the women stated that their lives had been changed in a very profound way.

One of the women said at the end:

"It's been agony, it's been horrible, it's been awful; an environment I'd never choose for my has brought out something in me that I needed. Being here has basically jammed me into a mould and yet that mould has allowed me to grow more"

And on a similar theme, another woman said: ..............

"I needed to be enclosed in order to discover that I am free"

I was deeply moved by the programme; it's one of the most compelling I've viewed in years.

Silence is Golden

What it brought up for me was how little silence that we allow into our lives. Silence is troubling and unsettling for many people, which is why we turn on the TV, radio, compulsively use the Internet, shop till we drop and use any amount of distractions to drown the silence. But it is in silence that we hear the "still, small voice of God" - as the nuns know all too well.

Like the women, too many memories, issues, thoughts, ideas which we have spent a lot of time suppressing to maintain our place in the world, come to the surface when it is silent and that can be overwhelming.

At least the women were in a very safe place - probably one of the safest - because they were being supported throughout their personal journey. Most of us won't have that to hand which is one of the reasons we are scared of silence; because we are scared of what we will unearth.

Keeping busy

Maybe we keep ourselves busy because we don't want to recognise that our relationship is faltering, we don't know who our children are, we hate our jobs but can't see that there is an alternative, can't face the pain of a fractured past etc.

If we allow ourselves the silence for these memories to come up, it may cause ructions and the carefully constructed edifice of our lives will come crashing down. However, EFT does provide a very simple, painless, non invasive way of looking and dealing with our stuff and knowing this means that we are better able and more willing to face our fears and gain the support we need to do so.

Rising to the surface

Because being silent and allowing "stuff" to come to the surface, also allows it to be released And being in silence for part of the day (early morning preferably) is a massive boost to our energy system.

If I don't spend some time in silent contemplation at the beginning of the day I feel "off". However, many of us rush to the TV for our regular input of bad news, we're laced up with caffeine, depleting our energy before we leave the door to go to work!

I won't say that it's always easy, but that investment of time in silence, meditation and contemplation pays dividends in terms of clarity of thinking, increased energy and linking to the source of who you really are.

I'm not sure if you can still access The Convent on the website; if you can then watch it. It's a fascinating study of personal growth and transformation.


At July 14, 2006 6:57 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

What about shared silence? Two friends, lovers, spouses can give implicit support and serenity to each other when they are comfortable being together for a while without feeling the need to break the silence. Don't you find that?

At July 18, 2006 11:51 AM, Blogger Julie Plenty said...

Yes, I agree. In fact I think that one of the signs of a healthy relationship is the ability to be comfortable together in silence.

I concentrated on being alone because this seems very elusive to many people. Over stimulation and distraction are encouraged in this culture.

However, I think that the only reason that it is elusive (apart from cultural pressures) is the fear of what will bubble up to the surface if we face ourselves alone (but not lonely).

At August 12, 2006 9:29 AM, Blogger dronbyfoto said...

I like it! Keep up the good work. Thanks for sharing this wonderful site with us.


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