Category Archives: Episodes

Another Way to Explore Silence — with this Reading List of 101 “Silence Books”

Hello friends!

If you’re like us, chances are you enjoy reading — and we hope you will enjoy the following list of over 100 books that address the importance of silence in our lives. As you look over the list, you’ll see it represents a variety of perspectives: some of these books are Christian, some Buddhist, some grounded in the arts, or social justice, or feminism. Some are collections of poetry; others are works of philosophy.

The one common thread to all of these books is silence.

Most of these books present an affirmative, appreciative understanding of silence. But more than one actually looks at the “dark” or “toxic” side of silence: how silence is used as a weapon against marginalized or oppressed persons.

Please explore this list; chances are, there will be something here that you’re not (yet) familiar with, but you’ll enjoy reading. All the book titles are linked to their page on Amazon, so you can click on the links and learn more about the books that interest you.

Finally, when you find a book that grabs you, please buy it after clicking on the link — these are affiliate links, meaning Amazon pays us a small commission for purchases made after clicking on them. It’s no extra charge to you — and it directly supports the podcast. So thank you!

Yours in the silence,

Carl, Cassidy & Kevin

P.S. These books represent a variety of spiritual, philosophical and political perspectives. We may not necessarily agree with everything you’ll find in these books, and including them in this list does not mean we endorse everything they say. We provide this list because all these books have a connection to silence, nothing more. Like a good bookstore in a free country, we include a variety of voices here, and we trust you, the reader, to discern carefully which author(s) and book(s) you want to read — and support — or, perhaps, argue with.

Andō: Silence in the Forest, Part 1 (Episode 47)

“All words begin as silence,” proclaims Andō on her Patreon page.  Indeed, those five words provide an auspicious introduction to this enigmatic yet joyful contemplative Zen poet.

As a lay monastic, Andō has spent many years living a monastic life in the forest. In her own words, “Spending five years living quietly in the forest, I learnt the Zen of forest, mountain and river, studied the poetry of the wind.”

Above: Cassidy Hall, Andō. Below: Kevin Johnson, Carl McColman.

She says “I’m passionate about the poetry of Zen, Ch’an and Daoist traditions, in particular, haiku, monoku, renku, free verse and fragments.” She is writing a haiku memoir and will publish her first two poetry collections this year. Active on social media and through her own Patreon page, she shares her poetry which is luminous with both silence and light.

Originally from England, she now makes her home in Portugal, where she spoke to us via Skype.

Our deeply contemplative conversation explores her relationship with Zen, with poetry, how a long illness became her greatest teacher, and how the forest brought her both healing and a deeper initiation into the mysteries of silence. She tells of studying with masters like Mooji and Ganga Mira, and how she discovered her vocation as a poet and spiritual companion, through silence.

“The truest poetry is where we’re not the poet, we’re the vehicle for the poetry.” — Andō

She is the creator of the Small Silences poetry course: “a contemplative poetry course for those seeking to make space for silence and poetry in their lives. Small silences are contemplative moments of awareness, attention, insight and clarity, recorded as brief poems.” To learn more or to register for this course, click here: www.ando.life/smallsilencescourse01

To support Andō  via Patreon, click here: www.patreon.com/theunsui

“Quit trying. Quit trying not to try. Quit quitting.” — Zen saying

This is part one of a two part interview. Part Two will be released the week of January 21, 2019.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 47: Andō: Silence in the Forest, Part 1
Hosted by: Carl McColman
Guest: Andō
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Date Recorded: December 17, 2018

Richard Rohr in Conversation with Cassidy Hall (Episode 46)

Richard Rohr sat down with Cassidy Hall in Chicago last month, at the conference “‘Disappear from View’? Thomas Merton, Fifty Years Later and Beyond” which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Merton’s death.

If I had to choose between music and silence, I’d always choose silence. — Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

In this informal chat, Fr. Richard and Cassidy reflect on why Merton remains so important a half century after his passing, along with insights into Fr. Richard’s sense of hope in our time (spoiler alert: he’s impressed with young people today), his thoughts on how Christianity in America has (and has not) been faithful to the teachings of Jesus over the past few decades, thoughts about his own work and legacy, and much more!

There’s so much creativity in the way we love people and the way we serve people. — Cassidy Hall

Listeners of this podcast will recall that we first spoke with Fr. Richard Rohr last spring — that conversation was released as Episode 19.

We’re all victims of our own culture. — Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

This is a field recording (made in the lobby of Fr. Richard’s hotel!) and so there’s plenty of background ambient noise — ironic, we know, for a podcast about silence! But we hope that listeners will appreciate this wonderful moment when Fr. Richard spoke with Cassidy in a truly relaxed and candid way.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Some of Richard Rohr’s other books include:

Episode 46: Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM in Conversation with Cassidy Hall in Chicago
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
Guest: Father Richard Rohr, OFM
Date Recorded: December 7, 2018

 

Auld Lang Silence (Episode 45)

For our final episode of 2018 — the first full year of our podcast, which debuted on December 6, 2017 — the three co-hosts of Encountering Silence sat down for a brief chat in which we reflected on the year just past, and shared some hopes for the podcast in the year to come.

This time a year ago, we had only released four episodes and had yet to interview our first guest (who would be Patrick Shen, in episode 7). We were still trying to figure this whole podcasting thing out. Kevin had managed to get some grant money for the recording and mixing equipment, and we all split the costs of the website, the URL and the podcasting hosting fees. We were operating on a shoestring, driven by faith and our shared love for silence (and, as we were soon to discover, poetry).

This time a year ago we had no idea that we would soon be interviewing a wide array of truly interesting and insightful guests who spoke about silence from a variety of perspectives. (If you’re new to the podcast, here’s a partial list of the folks we’ve spoken to over the past year):

Over the course of the year, several themes emerged, some of which we were mindful of when we began the podcast, but others which arose out of the various conversations over the year. Some of those themes included these thoughts: Silence matters; silence is an “endangered species” in our hyper-connected, entertainment-drenched world; silence is essential not only for spiritual well-being but for mental and physical wellness also; silence is essential for creativity; different kinds of people embrace and encounter silence in different ways; not all “silences” are created equal, and not all expressions of silence are good — there is such a thing as “toxic” silence; and the list could go on.

After thirteen months, all three of the co-hosts are awed and humbled and amazed at the richness of the conversation, as well as the emerging web of new friendships and connections that we see on social media, as well as in “real life,” of people who are drawn to this podcast — and each other — by a shared recognition that silence matters.

So — now, where do we go from here?

Looking ahead, naturally we are eager to expand the conversation as we invite some new dialogue partners onto the podcast (and perhaps welcome a few of our previous guests back for new episodes). We are eager to explore more deeply both the social dimension of silence (how silence relates to religion, to art, to social justice, and to the problem of social and economic privilege) as well as the personal dimension of silence (how to be more silent in the middle of stress, during times of vulnerability or suffering, and in the midst of life’s ordinary chaos). We believe silence makes a difference, and — except for its toxic form, which we would argue is actually a betrayal of true silence) — that difference is universally positive, yielding physical, mental and spiritual benefits. So we also want to talk more about how to spread the “good news” of silence and help others to access silence in both personal and communal ways.

It’s amazing how such a quiet topic (pardon the pun) can yield such a rich and nuanced conversation. We feel like the conversation is just getting started. Please stay tuned — we value your companionship as we make this journey, deeper and deeper into the mystery of silence!

Finally, one last point to observe about both the year just ended and the year to come. As of this writing, 42 people have committed to support the podcast financially through a monthly pledge on Patreon (we’ve had several other donors make one-time contributions as well). All three of us find it’s awkward to ask for money, but podcasting is both a time-intensive task and a form of media based on free access — anyone can listen for free (and we like it that way), but for us to continue to investing the time it takes to research, record, produce and promote new episodes, we need the support of our listeners. Fortunately, Patreon makes it possible for listeners to offer a small monthly pledge — starting at just $1 a month — so please, if you haven’t done so already, make a pledge. Your support makes a real difference. Thank you.

Other important ways to support the podcast:

  • Tell your friends  about the podcast.
  • Share our social media posts.
  • Purchase books through our “Silence Store” where we receive a commission from Amazon sales.
  • Subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or your preferred channel.
  • Leave a review of the podcast on iTunes or your preferred channel.
  • Give us feedback — let us know that you’re listening, and tell us how we’re doing.
  • If you a praying person, then please pray for us.

Your support matters. We are truly grateful for you — for listening, for supporting our work, and most of all, for accompanying us on the path of silence. Thank you.

Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:

Episode 45: Auld Lang Silence
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Date Recorded: 
December 20, 2018

 

 

Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO: Silence in Chicago (Episode 44)

We are so pleased to welcome Trappist monk and poet Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO, back to Encountering Silence. A while back, Cassidy Hall interviewed brother Paul at his home, Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky (you can listen to that episode by clicking here).

Br. Paul, out shopping with Cassidy

She ran into Br. Paul again recently while visiting Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, to participate in the conference “‘Disappear from View’? Thomas Merton, Fifty Years Later and Beyond” which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Merton’s death in Bangkok in 1968.

If you can breathe comfortably with yourself, you’re going to be breathing more comfortably with other people. If you’re not comfortable with yourself, how are you going to be comfortable with other people? — Brother Paul Quenon, OCSO

Judith Valente interviews Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO at the CTU Conference

They sat down for another chance to chat, and here is the recording of that conversation.

Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:

Episode 32: Silence in Chicago: A Conversation with Paul Quenon, OCSO
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
Introduced by: Kevin Johnson
Guest: Paul Quenon, OCSO
Date Recorded: December 7, 2018

Jacqueline Bussie: Silence and Love without Limits (Episode 43)

Dr. Jacqueline Bussie. Photo by Rachel Kabukala

Sometimes we do not encounter silence so much as silence encounters us — whether we want it to or not. Today we have a conversation with Dr. Jacqueline Bussie, author of Love Without Limits: Jesus’ Radical Vision for Love with No Exceptions.

Dr. Bussie teaches religion, theology, and interfaith studies classes at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where she also serves as the Director of the Forum on Faith and Life.

“There is something that I think we have to be more authentic about within our faith traditions… and that is the silence of God and the way that is not always pretty.” — Dr. Jacqueline Bussie

A book about love may not sound very radical — but when the book’s original publisher wanted to edit or remove sections it deemed too controversial, Jacqueline faced a dilemma: either accept the publisher’s demands, or lose the publication contract. It was an experience of having her voiced silenced, all because she wanted to affirm the radical nature of true Christian love — a love with no boundaries and no exceptions. Thankfully, a new publisher was quickly found willing to take over the task of publishing the book — without silencing Jacqueline’s voice or her commitment to love without limits. But she received a crash course in how vulnerable we all are, to being silenced by those who wield greater power.

“Writing is prayer.” — Dr. Jacqueline Bussie

We recorded this episode of the podcast while Jacqueline was attending the Parlaiment of World Religions in Toronto, where she was one of the presenters. But she made time in her schedule to Skype with the Encountering Silence team, not only to discuss the remarkable story of her encounter with a silence that threatened to silence her, but she also explores more how silence has been part of her story in more life-affirming ways as well.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 43: Silence and Love without Limits: A Conversation with Jacqueline Bussie
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Guest: Dr. Jacqueline Bussie
Date Recorded: November 5, 2018

Appreciating healthy silence at a writer’s retreat in Wyoming

Rebecca Bratten Weiss: Silence, Feminism, and Literature (Episode 42)

This week’s episode marks the one-year anniversary of Encountering Silence! Our pilot episode was released a year ago today.

It seems appropriate, therefore, that on this first-year anniversary, we release an episode that marks a new “first” for us. Not only is it the first time we’ve interviewed Catholic author, philosopher and feminist Rebecca Bratten Weiss, but also the first time we’ve recorded an episode in front of a live audience.

This was recorded on Sunday, November 11, 2018 at Terra Incognita, a literary conference and workshop sponsored by the Convivium Journal, which Rebecca Bratten Weiss edits. Kevin and Cassidy both attended the conference and took the opportunity to interview Rebecca — and perform what we hope will the first of many, many Encountering Silence live events.

We decided, as part of our one-year observance, to release this episode with only very light editing — for two reasons. First, we felt that the first twelve minutes, where Cassidy and Kevin talk about the podcast and introduce themselves and the podcast to the audience, was worth keeping for the sake of new (newer) listeners who might enjoy hearing how we introduce ourselves.

But our other reason for leaving this episode (mostly) unedited was simply that we felt it would be a fun way to share with our listening circle, just what it feels like to be with us as we record.

We did edit out a few obvious bloopers. But for the most part, you get the feel of one of our recording sessions, from getting interrupted by a cellphone, to our moment of silence before we “officially” begin recording.

We hope you enjoy it!

If you set forth on a voyage across the ocean, silence is a little bit like that, in that you will meet many many things, as Odysseus did on his voyages: strange monsters, dragons, friends, seducers… As a writer, one has to go into that realm because so much that we have experienced in our lives is stored there in our memory and we then find that the things that we remember are still alive there, very very alive, moving around like little strange sea creatures, connecting with each other, perhaps breeding and producing new creatures that now reside in your imagination. — Rebecca Bratten Weiss

But of course, the real treat in this episode is our chance to chat with Rebecca Bratten Weiss. Novelist, poet, editor, professor of English and philosophy, co-founder of the New Pro-Life Movement, and self described “Christian rebel,” she is the manager of the Catholic Channel on Patheos, where she also maintains her blog, Suspended in Her Jar.  In her blog bio she says “I’m interested in eco-growing and sustainable economies, a theology of the real female body, social justice, and poking at the patriarchy. I write poems about insects and other things that some find disgusting, and novels that are likely to be banned in certain quarters.”

I’m a Catholic woman — I’ve been silenced my entire life. I lived in religious semi-community situations, so it was constant silencing, and it’s knowing what you can’t say, and a long list of things you can’t say, and the words you can’t use, especially as a woman; and I’ve taught in Catholic academia, and that meant knowing what you can’t say — but then I said some things anyway! — Rebecca Bratten Weiss

Her books include Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut and Catholic Philosopher Chick Comes on Strong (both co-authored with Regina Doman), as well as a chapbook of poems, Palaces of Dust. Another chapbook, Mudwoman, co-authored by Joanna Penn Cooper, has recently been released.

Rebecca Bratten Weiss muses on how silence is a “strange land,” a place where writers access the wonders and terrors of their imagination; she reflects on how silence has been a gift for her in relation to interacting with her horse, the relationship between silence, intimacy, writing, and anxiety; and the story of how she experienced toxic silence, particularly in Catholic settings. But even after losing her job, she found new opportunities to challenge toxic silence through her work with Patheos and Catholic Women Speak.

She rounds out the conversation by sharing one of her poems, “Milliners.”

I feel sad that so many people who love the great books and who taught me the great books have, I believe, turned against everything that’s beautiful in western civilization. — Rebecca Bratten Weiss

Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:

Episode 42: Silence, Feminism, and Literature: A Conversation with Rebecca Bratten Weiss
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson and Cassidy Hall
Date Recorded: November 11, 2018

David Cole: Celtic Mysticism and Silence (Episode 41)

David Cole and Luna

How does silence impact the rhythms of our lives — including the rhythm of prayer? How can we invite silence into our lives, in both structured and unstructured ways?

Joining us to explore questions like these — from the New Forest of England — is the award-winning author, teacher and spiritual guide David Cole.

Intentional silences is different to just finding yourself not saying anything, there’s a focus behind that, that intention that you’re deliberately being with God in that moment. — David Cole

David’s books include: The Mystic Path of Meditation: Beginning a Christ-Centered Journey, Celtic Prayers and Practices: An Inner Journey and Forty Days with the Celtic Saints: Devotional Readings for a Time of Preparation. His most recent books are Celtic Advent: 40 Days of Devotions to Christmas and Celtic Lent: 40 Days of Devotions to Easter

David is the founder of Waymark Ministries which creates opportunities for people to engage with the wisdom teachings of Christ and Christianity for our time, with a particular emphasis on Celtic spirituality and Christian mysticism. He is also Deputy Guardian for the Community of Aidan and Hilda, a dispersed, ecumenical Christian intentional community which draws its inspiration from the lives of the Celtic saints.

David and Luna in the New Forest

In this wide-ranging conversation, David shares how Celtic spirituality and an early mystical experience of Christ shaped his spiritual identity, and how the new monastic movement, the experience of working with a soul friend (anam chara), and long walks in the New Forest with Luna, his border collie companion, have all been gateways for his own encounter with silence.

On Lindisfarne, particularly during the summer, they can have eight to ten thousand people a day coming on to the island to visit, it gets hugely busy.  And it’s fascinating speaking to some of these travelers and visitors who have no spiritual context, but will tell you that they can feel something different in this place, they will say there’s something in this place that feels different. And obviously, for myself, that’s the Divine Presence… There is something there that even those who don’t believe can feel. — David Cole

To learn more about David Cole’s books and ministry, visit www.waymarkministries.com. To learn more about the Community of Aidan and Hilda, visit www.aidanandhilda.org.uk.

Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:

Episode 41: Celtic Mysticism and Silence: A Conversation with David Cole
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Kevin Johnson, Cassidy Hall
Guest: David Cole
Date Recorded: November 5, 2018

David Cole with Fran & Carl McColman at the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford.

Christine Valters Paintner: Silence, Art, and Contemplation (Episode 40)

Christine Valters Paintner — an American expatriate living in the west of Ireland — joins us on Encoutering Silence to explore the intersections of silence, spirituality, contemplation, creativity, and living as a monk in the real world.

Author, poet, spiritual director, and Benedictine Oblate Christine Valters Paintner serves as the online Abbess at www.AbbeyoftheArts.com, a virtual monastery without walls. She is the author of twelve books on spirituality, contemplative practice, and creative expression, including: The Artist’s RuleThe Eyes of the HeartThe Wisdom of the Bodyand The Soul’s Slow Ripening. Next year Paraclete Press will publish her collection of poetry, Dreaming of Stones.

I started to realize how photography has a lot of violence in its language — so there’s capturing, shooting, taking… the way that we interact with photography is very much about seizing the movement in this kind of violent way. What if when we were with our camera, we looked at it as receiving a gift, rather than taking something? — Christine Valters Paintner

Drawing connections between her life experience as an introvert and her early spiritual formation shaped by Jesuit education and the wisdom of St. Benedict and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Christine shares how a silent retreat inspired her to find the silent, contemplative dimension of artistry, poetry, movement — as well as winter time as a powerful season for contemplative rest and unknowing which is its own contribution to the creative process.

I find that creative work is a lot about just giving ourselves permission to make mistakes, and to have fun, and to do things that we maybe haven’t done since we were a child, and there is a lot of freedom that comes with that. — Christine Valters Paintner

She reflects on how the experience of grieving, living with an autoimmune illness, and embracing our embodied selves, are some of the many portals through which the mystery of contemplative silence has invited her — and can invite all of us — into stillness and unknowing, and into finding ourselves in the present moment.

Christine offers a special treat at the end of our conversation — she reads a never-before-published poem of hers, “Saint Francis and the Grasshopper.”

I believe in the revolutionary power of stillness and spaciousness, and of practicing presence to life’s unfolding. I believe this commitment can change the world. — Christine Valters Paintner

Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:

When I do spend that time in silence and solitude, I am so nourished by this sense of something so much more expansive and deep and generous, that that naturally spills over into how I want to live my life. — Christine Valters Paintner

Episode 40: Silence, Art, and Contemplation: A Conversation with Christine Valters Paintner
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Kevin Johnson, Cassidy Hall
Guest: Christine Valters Paintner
Date Recorded: October 29, 2018

Judith Valente: Silence, St. Benedict, and Writing (Episode 39)

Judith Valente is a poet, a journalist, a Benedictine oblate, and the author of books including Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith and How to Live: What the Rule of Saint Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning and Community. Her books of poetry include Discovering Moons and The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed which she co-authored with Br. Paul Quenon OCSO and Michael Bever.

Silence has two sides to it… silence could be very burdensome… so silence also has to be balanced with community. Too much silence can be deafening, it can be stifling to a soul. — Judith Valente

Judith shares how a poetry workshop at a monastery led her to a meaningful encounter with silence at midlife — how a room “saturated with silence” introduced her to a maxim from St. Benedict: “At all times, cultivate silence” — thus inviting her to seek rest in solitude and stillness as a response to her busy (and exhausting) life.

All poems begin in silence, and the poems themselves are a part of the overall silence that we experience. — Judith Valente

She talks about her ancestral ties to Monte Cassino (where St. Benedict founded his last monastery), and how Benedictine spirituality helped to inspire her and her husband to become involved in organic farming. She goes on to reflect how nature, beauty, and poetry are all linked to her spiritual life. She tells some chaarming stories about her fellow poet, the Trappist monk Br. Paul Quenon (who Cassidy Hall interviewed for our episode 32), and about the bullfrogs and cicadas who “sing” to her in the silence of a cabin on her farm, where she often goes to write.

Our conversation meanders over the problems associated with social media, poets that Judith loves and a special reading of her poems, “Discovering Moons” and “Lunar Eclipse.”

Contemplation is a big fat word for gratitude. — Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO

Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:

Poetry is for everyone… Poetry is truly a ‘soul friend.’ Poems will come back to us when we need to hear their message. They will come back to us at different points in our lives, poems that we’ve read, poems that we’ve heard; they are our soul friends.  — Judith Valente

Episode 39: Silence, St. Benedict and Writing: A Conversation with Judith Valente
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Guest: Judith Valente
Date Recorded: October 15, 2018