What poets, monks and nuns know about silence

Tracy Rittmueller

Poets live with silence: 
the silence before the poem; 
the silence when the poem comes;

the silence in between the words, as you
drink the words, watch them glide through your mind,
feel them slide down your throat
toward your heart ….

—Michael Shepherd, “Rum’s Silence”

Silence, poetry and prayer have something in common—they connect us to the mysterious aspects of living. We can’t describe or explain mysteries. We can, however, experience them.

I first learned about the benefits of silence through a long association with poets. More recently after becoming a Benedictine oblate, I’ve gotten to know monks and nuns—collectively called monastics—who have deepened my understanding of the beauty and benefits of silence.

In the dark, it’s easier to see with peripheral vision than if we look directly at things. Since the experience of silence is inexplicable, I won’t attempt to describe what it does or how it benefits…

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