A second obstacle to interior listening is a restlessness or discomfort with silence or deeper reflection.
If someone isn’t used to a lot of silence or more contemplative forms of prayer, some restlessness or discomort with silence is not truly an obstacle at all, but simply something to become used to. Starting out small—five or ten minutes of quiet prayer—is manageable for many people on a daily basis. (If five minutes seems unbearable, try starting with just two minutes—there are some good two-minute meditation books available. God is not limited by time. He can do in one second what would take us a century…or would simply be impossible for us to do on our own.)
Often, inner restlessness or an inability to sit still can arise because we are currently suffering a profound loss or grief; the pain that we feel surfaces every time we start to quiet down, so we shy away from silence. This is a time to be gentle with ourselves. It’s good if we can still take short times of silence or quiet prayer, acknowledge the pain long enough to be aware of it and to offer it to the Lord, but then move on to another form of prayer or some other activity that soothes us. For example, instead of sitting still in Eucharistic adoration, take a prayer walk and pray the Rosary, or repeat a phrase from Scripture that is meaningful while we walk. When we are too restless to sit still, we can find other ways to pray and listen to God, such as journaling, art-journaling, listening to music or a song that reminds us of God’s love for us, etc. Eventually, our inner restlessness will pass and we can return to quiet prayer.
If we struggle regularly with an inner restlessness that makes silence or quiet prayer times uncomfortable, this could mean we are simply uncomfortable with the thoughts and feelings that arise when we are quiet. If quiet prayer and reflection haven’t been part of our lives, the cacophony of thoughts and feelings can truly become overwhelming. If this is the case, beginning slow—with even two minutes of reflection—is helpful. A structured method for praying—such as lectio divina, centering prayer, or Eucharistic adoration—can also be useful because it gives us a place to focus in the quiet. (Some resources are listed below.) If thoughts or feelings arise that are deeply troublesome, speaking to a counselor or trusted mentor about them can help us to sort through them.
Quiet, reflective prayer times are important for the deep listening that discernment requires, but God works with us individually, where we are, responding our specific needs and desires right now. Total silence can be helpful but is not always necessary (or even possible). Freedom from distractions so that we can listen deeply to the Lord is what we are looking for. Sometimes soothing music, or a prayerful practice—such as journaling or a form of art—can be more helpful than silence in leading us into a spirit of prayer.
Please Reflect & Share:
- Where do you stand with silence today?
- What has helped you enter the silence of prayer when you have struggled with it?
Your sharing here (or anonymously by emailing me, and I will post your response) may be enormously helpful to another discerner.