The Loosened Tongue: Silence in Practice
In my previous post I talked about the importance of silent waiting. While I hold that adding regular intervals of waiting worship to one’s religious life is optimal, I realize not everyone will go that route. So in terms of practical application I’d like to focus on a method that combines verbal queries with intervals of expectant silence. One such method is Rex Ambler’s Experiments in the Light, which has proved a powerful method for many people. As it is most commonly practiced, an individual—alone or in a group—reads the following prompts aloud with five to six minutes of silence between each prompt.
1. Relax body and mind. Make yourself comfortable….Be relaxed, but alert. Let yourself become wholly receptive.
2. In this receptive state of mind, let the real concerns of your life emerge. Ask yourself, ‘What is really going on in my life?’, but do not try to answer the question. Let the answer come. You can be specific: ‘What is happening in my relationships, my work, my Meeting, in my own heart and mind?’
3. Now focus on one issue that presents itself, one thing that gives you a sense of unease. Try to get a sense of this thing as a whole. Deep down you know what it is all about, but you don’t normally allow yourself to take it all in and absorb the reality of it. Now is the time to do so. You don’t have to get involved in it again, or get entangled with the feelings around it. Keep a little distance, so that you can see it clearly. Let the light show you what is really going on here.
4. Now ask yourself what makes it like that. Don’t try to explain it. Just wait in the light till you can see what it is. Let the full truth reveal itself, or as much truth as you are able to take at this moment.
5. When the answer comes welcome it. It may be painful or difficult to believe with your normal conscious mind, but if it is the truth you will recognize it immediately. You will realise that it is something that you need to know. Trust the light. Say yes to it.
6. As soon as you accept what is being revealed to you, you will begin to feel different. Accepting truth about yourself is like making peace.
(I have shortened the above prompts in order to save space, anyone interested in the full text should refer to Seeing, Hearing, Knowing: Reflections on Experiment with Light, edited by John Lampen. Resources and full audio recordings of this and other prompts based on Ambler’s work are also available at this link.
Hopefully it will be apparent to readers how the above can be easily adjusted to fit the specific needs of a writer. For example, rather than asking in the second question what is going on with my life, ask: Where are you taking me, Lord, with this poem? What is the significance of such and such line or image that keeps echoing in my mind? You need not go through all six prompts. A single query will suffice, e.g., what is missing from this draft? What is crucial is to ask the question, wait for the answer to come, and accept where that answer leads you.
rod dixon is a member of the religious society of friends (quaker), though he often gets mistaken for an old order mennonite. his short-stories have appeared in several journals, most recently red rock review, euphony, and edge. for fun he is the non-fiction editor of ontologica: a journal of art and thought. for money, he researches and develops manufacturing procedures for a non-profit serving the blind and visually impaired. he lives in kentucky with his wife and two children.