Encountering Silence in Times of Crisis

This week the Encountering Silence podcast features just the three of us — Cassidy, Kevin and Carl — reflecting on this extraordinary moment we find ourselves in.

Recorded on March 24, 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, naturally we are reflecting on the spirituality of silence and solitude while much of the world has embraced the necessity of sheltering-at-home and social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus.

But we also recognize that the challenges we are collectively facing during this pandemic could have parallels in almost any crisis situation — any time when life’s circumstances present us with situations where we recognize we are not fully in control, we are faced with silence and solitude that may not be of our own choosing, and we are invited to recognize how important it is to embrace our common humanity and relatedness to one another.

Silence is all about releasing control, and all about letting go and being, and melting into this vision of unity… this collective common good, this oneness. — Cassidy Hall

Carl, Cassidy, and Kevin

You’ve been trained, your whole life, to focus on thinking, words, achievement, doing… so now when you having something like silence and stillness, we don’t have places for that in our culture, forced upon you… well, it’s a struggle, because you’re fighting a habit. — Kevin Johnson

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

At the end of the episode, Cassidy quotes from the wonderful poem “Stay Home” by Wendell Berry. Here is a recording in which Berry reads his own poem, followed by a musical setting of it, from the CD Celebrating Wendell Berry in Music.

Silence and solitude and stillness and contemplation do not exist just to facilitate action. There is a place in which silence and solitude and stillness exist simply because they are good and they are necessary. — Carl McColman

Episode 93: Encountering Silence in  Times of Crisis
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Date Recorded: March 24, 2020

Featured image: Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash.

Pádraig Ó Tuama: Silence, Poetry, and Conflict Resolution (Part Two)

Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, and conflict mediator, who brings interests in language, violence and religion to his work. He is the Poet Laureate and Theologian in Residence for the On Being project, and hosts the Poetry Unbound podcast. He was formerly the leader of the Corrymeela Community (Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community), and is the author of four books, including Readings from the Book of Exile, Sorry For Your Troubles, In the Shelter: Finding a Home In the World and Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community.

In this episode not only does Pádraig share some thoughts of some of his favorite poets and other authors, but he also offers detailed advice for the beginning writer of poetry.

This is part two of a two-part episode. To listen to part one, click here.

It is mostly poets that I turn to for theology. — Pádraig Ó Tuama

Pádraig Ó Tuama with Carl McColman in Northern Ireland, Summer 2010

 

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

There’s something about the space of loneliness and silence in writing something and wondering, ‘Will this stand the test of time?’ I know poets who won’t show a poem to anyone before it’s sat for a year, some editing, etc., but that they need it to distill, like whisky, that it needs to have that kind of a quality to it. — Pádraig Ó Tuama

Episode 92: Silence, Poetry, and Conflict Resolution: A Conversation with Pádraig Ó Tuama (Part Two)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Pádraig Ó Tuama
Date Recorded: February 17, 2020

Featured image photo by Yves Alarie on Unsplash.

Pádraig Ó Tuama: Silence, Poetry, and Conflict Resolution (Part One)

Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, and conflict mediator, who brings interests in language, violence and religion to his work. He is the Poet Laureate and Theologian in Residence for the On Being project, and hosts the Poetry Unbound podcast. He was formerly the leader of the Corrymeela Community (Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community), and is the author of four books, including Readings from the Book of Exile, Sorry For Your Troubles, In the Shelter: Finding a Home In the World and Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community.

This is part one of a two-part episode. Click here to listen to part two.

I think that the deepest spiritual practices are the deepest physical practices, and that the deepest practices of silence are an embodied practice. — Pádraig Ó Tuama

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

Pádraig Ó Tuama with Carl McColman in Northern Ireland, Summer 2010

Silence has its own power, and silence can be a way of avoiding. I suppose the hope within any kind of practice of prayer of any tradition, is that any silence that we are holding is also being beheld. There’s something or someone or some way of that mystery we call God, that beholds us in the silence that we might be beholding for ourselves. — Pádraig Ó Tuama

Episode 91: Silence, Poetry, and Conflict Resolution: A Conversation with Pádraig Ó Tuama (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Pádraig Ó Tuama
Date Recorded: February 17, 2020

Featured image: photo by Adam Markon on Unsplash.

Therese Schroeder-Sheker: Silence, Music, and Death (Part Two)

Silence takes many forms: silent prayer, the silence of meditation and contemplation, the silence of the wilderness and the desert, the relationship between silence and creativity or silence and politics.

Silence also shapes and informs one of the great mysteries of life: the mystery of death.

This is part two of a two-part episode. To listen to part one, click here.

Photo credits: ©Lynn Johnson, all rights reserved, used by permission.
Photo credits: ©Lynn Johnson, all rights reserved, used by permission.

 

Harpist, singer and composer Therese Schroeder-Sheker has devoted her life to exploring this greatest silence of all, through more than forty years of clinical experience serving the physical and spiritual needs of the dying with prescriptive music. Ms. Schroeder-Sheker founded the palliative medical modality of music-thanatology and The Chalice of Repose Project, the first music-thanatology organization in the world. 

Her beautiful and award-winning recordings include The Queen’s MinstrelRosa Mysticaand The Geography of the Soul. She is the author of Transitus: A Blessed Death in the Modern WorldAs the title of that book suggests, her work has a contemplative dimension that explores how music can be a gift to those who are dying or in hospice or palliative care.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in these episodes:

Episode 90: Silence, Music, and Death: A Conversation with Therese Schroeder-Sheker (Part Two)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Therese Schroeder-Sheker
Date Recorded: December 17, 2019

Featured photo: ©Lynn Johnson, all rights reserved, used by permission.

Therese Schroeder-Sheker: Silence, Music, and Death (Part One)

Silence takes many forms: silent prayer, the silence of meditation and contemplation, the silence of the wilderness and the desert, the relationship between silence and creativity or silence and politics.

Silence also shapes and informs one of the great mysteries of life: the mystery of death.

Norman Lockwood was trying to teach me about fasting from sound, that helped cleanse both my inner life and the sensoria. And that set the stage for the possibility of being able to hear something new, as a composer or as a performing artist. — Therese Schroeder-Sheker

Harpist, singer and composer Therese Schroeder-Sheker has devoted her life to exploring this greatest silence of all, through more than forty years of clinical experience serving the physical and spiritual needs of the dying with prescriptive music. Ms. Schroeder-Sheker founded the palliative medical modality of music-thanatology and The Chalice of Repose Project, the first music-thanatology organization in the world. 

Her beautiful and award-winning recordings include The Queen’s Minstrel, Rosa Mystica, and The Geography of the Soul. She is the author of Transitus: A Blessed Death in the Modern World. As the title of that book suggests, her work has a contemplative dimension that explores how music can be a gift to those who are dying or in hospice or palliative care.

This is part one of a two-part episode. Part two will be released next week.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in these episodes:

Episode 89: Silence, Music, and Death: A Conversation with Therese Schroeder-Sheker (Part One)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Therese Schroeder-Sheker
Date Recorded: December 17, 2019

Featured Image: Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash.

Dr. Robert J. Wicks: The Tao of Ordinary Silence (Part Two)

Dr. Robert Wicks is professor emeritus of Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland, a prolific author, and an internationally-known speaker on topics such as spirituality, mindfulness, self-care, and stress management. His many books include Everyday Simplicity: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Growth, Perspective: The Calm Within the Storm, Night Call: Embracing Compassion and Hope in a Troubled World, and his latest, The Tao of Ordinariness: Humility and Simplicity in a Narcissistic Age

I think that anytime we can get together and speak about something that is so important as silence, it really is worth the effort, isn’t it? — Robert J. Wicks

Note: this is part two of a two-part interview. To listen to part one, click here.

Dr. Wicks received his doctorate in Psychology from Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital. According to his website, his “major area of expertise is the prevention of secondary stress which encompasses the pressures encountered in reaching out to others.  He integrates sound psychology and basic spiritual truths to set the stage for profound personal transformation.  He has cultivated this experience through research and clinical practice with psychotherapists, physicians, nurses, educators, relief workers, lawyers, corporate executives and persons in full-time ministry.”

People say “Well, I can’t seem to sense God.” Well, you’re too busy in your head thinking. If you look at the energy in a city and experience it; if you’re in a quiet place in the forest and you hear the birds that you’ve never heard, you’re hearing the voice of God. The problem is, you’re not listening — you’re hearing, but you’re not listening. — Robert J. Wicks

Dr. Wicks joined the Encountering Silence team on Skype to share his thoughts on the sacred place where spirituality and mental health meet — and the vital place for silence in that nexus.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in these episodes:

Episode 88: The Tao of Ordinary Silence: A Conversation with Dr. Robert J. Wicks (Part Two)
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Date Recorded: December 9, 2019

Dr. Robert J. Wicks: The Tao of Ordinary Silence (Part One)

Dr. Robert Wicks is professor emeritus of Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland, a prolific author, and an internationally-known speaker on topics such as spirituality, mindfulness, self-care, and stress management. His many books include Everyday Simplicity: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Growth, Perspective: The Calm Within the Storm, Night Call: Embracing Compassion and Hope in a Troubled World, and his latest, The Tao of Ordinariness: Humility and Simplicity in a Narcissistic Age

Note: This is part one of a two-part interview. To listen to part two, click here.

Dr. Wicks received his doctorate in Psychology from Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital. According to his website, his “major area of expertise is the prevention of secondary stress which encompasses the pressures encountered in reaching out to others.  He integrates sound psychology and basic spiritual truths to set the stage for profound personal transformation.  He has cultivated this experience through research and clinical practice with psychotherapists, physicians, nurses, educators, relief workers, lawyers, corporate executives and persons in full-time ministry.”

Dr. Wicks joined the Encountering Silence team on Skype to share his thoughts on the sacred place where spirituality and mental health meet — and the vital place for silence in that nexus.

Author Dr Robert Wicks, Ellicott City, MD

 

Some of the resources and authors we mention in these episodes:

Episode 87: The Tao of Ordinary Silence: A Conversation with Dr. Robert J. Wicks (Part One)
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Date Recorded: December 9, 2019

J. Brent Bill: Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love — and Holy Silence (Part Two)

For our latest “Encountering Silence field recording,” Cassidy Hall visits the farm of Indiana Quaker author J. Brent Bill for a conversation about silence and other essential elements of life. This is part two of a two-part episode; click here to listen to part one.

Cassidy Hall and J. Brent Bill

J. Brent Bill is a Quaker minister, retreat leader, and photographer. He’s written more than twenty books, including Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality and Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love: Four Essentials for the Abundant Life. He has served as a local church pastor, denominational executive, seminary faculty member, and go-kart track operator. He lives on Ploughshares Farm, which is forty acres of former farmland being reclaimed to tall grass prairie and native hardwood forest.

Finding rhythms of silence throughout our days, our ordinary day, really returns us to center, returns us to God, and keeps us centered. — J. Brent Bill

Portrait of J. Brent Bill in coffee, by Chris Hagebak

In writing, especially, I need the centeredness of silence, especially in the editing stages, to say ‘Is this the right word? What am I conveying here, and am I conveying it in such a way that it can be heard? And the only way I can do that is to look at the words in silence. And I do regard my writing as a form of worship, in an exploration, too, in worship of where God is leading me. — J. Brent Bill

Some of the resources and authors we mention in these episodes:

Episode 86: Beauty, Truth, Life, Love — and Holy Silence: A Conversation with J. Brent Bill (Part Two)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
Date Recorded: December 3, 2019

J. Brent Bill: Beauty, Truth, Life, Love — and Holy Silence (Part One)

For our latest “Encountering Silence field recording,” Cassidy Hall visits the farm of Indiana Quaker author J. Brent Bill for a conversation about silence and other essential elements of life. This is part one of a two-part episode; the remainder of this interview will be released on our next episode.

J. Brent Bill

J. Brent Bill is a Quaker minister, retreat leader, and photographer. He’s written more than twenty books, including Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality and Beauty, Truth, Life, and Love: Four Essentials for the Abundant Life. He has served as a local church pastor, denominational executive, seminary faculty member, and go-kart track operator. He lives on Ploughshares Farm, which is forty acres of former farmland being reclaimed to tall grass prairie and native hardwood forest.

Finding rhythms of silence throughout our days, our ordinary day, really returns us to center, returns us to God, and keeps us centered. — J. Brent Bill

Cassidy Hall and J. Brent Bill

In writing, especially, I need the centeredness of silence, especially in the editing stages, to say ‘Is this the right word? What am I conveying here, and am I conveying it in such a way that it can be heard? And the only way I can do that is to look at the words in silence. And I do regard my writing as a form of worship, in an exploration, too, in worship of where God is leading me. — J. Brent Bill

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

Episode 85: Beauty, Truth, Life, Love — and Holy Silence: A Conversation with J. Brent Bill (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
Date Recorded: December 3, 2019

Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza: Silence and Activist Theology (Part Two)

Our conversation with Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, the author of Activist Theology, concludes this week, in part two of a two-part interview. To listen to part one, click here.

Born to a Mexican woman and an Anglo man in Northern Mexico, the Republic of Texas, Dr. Robyn moved to Chicago, IL for graduate school, and completed a master’s degree in theological ethics at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Clinical Pastoral Education at a Trauma II Chicagoland hospital. Following graduate school, Dr. Robyn worked in domestic violence & sexual assault fields before joining the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.

In 2009, Dr. Robyn began doctoral work at the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology studying constructive philosophical theology & ethics, & completed a graduate certificate in Latinx Studies.

As an activist-scholar, Dr. Robyn travels the country doing activist theology and continues to write, using the tools learned in both academy and activism to stand in the hybrid space of faith communities, academy, and movements for justice — curating activist scholarship with deep intention of bridging with difference.

Dr. Robyn‘s life has been lived with the ongoing challenge to remain grounded in the center of their own difference as a non binary Trans mixed-raced Latinx. This has required the thoughtful intention of bridging with their white ancestors and Mexican ancestors and with those in the queer community. As a result, their life’s vocation is one that is committed to the deep relationality of bridging with difference.

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

Some websites to visit include Dr. Robyn’s personal site, iRobyn.com, the Activist Theology Project, and Imaginarium.

So much of our war against everyone has been around disembodiment; and if we encourage embodiment, we might see a different kind of people emerge. — Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

Episode 84: Silence and Activist Theology: A Conversation with Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza (Part Two)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Date Recorded: December 10, 2019

Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza: Silence and Activist Theology (Part One)

Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, the author of Activist Theology, joins our conversation this week. Born to a Mexican woman and an Anglo man in Northern Mexico, the Republic of Texas, Dr. Robyn moved to Chicago, IL for graduate school, and completed a master’s degree in theological ethics at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Clinical Pastoral Education at a Trauma II Chicagoland hospital. Following graduate school, Dr. Robyn worked in domestic violence & sexual assault fields before joining the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.

This is part one of a two-part episode. To listen to part two, click here.

In 2009, Dr. Robyn began doctoral work at the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology studying constructive philosophical theology & ethics, & completed a graduate certificate in Latinx Studies.

As an activist-scholar, Dr. Robyn travels the country doing activist theology and continues to write, using the tools learned in both academy and activism to stand in the hybrid space of faith communities, academy, and movements for justice — curating activist scholarship with deep intention of bridging with difference.

Dr. Robyn‘s life has been lived with the ongoing challenge to remain grounded in the center of their own difference as a non binary Trans mixed-raced Latinx. This has required the thoughtful intention of bridging with their white ancestors and Mexican ancestors and with those in the queer community. As a result, their life’s vocation is one that is committed to the deep relationality of bridging with difference.

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

Some websites to visit include Dr. Robyn’s personal site, iRobyn.com, the Activist Theology Project, and Imaginarium.

We can’t repair relationships without being embodied. — Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

Episode 83: Silence and Activist Theology: A Conversation with Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Date Recorded: December 10, 2019

Happy Birthday, Encountering Silence

Happy Birthday, Encountering Silence!

This week marks the two-year anniversary of our first episode (listen to it here). To mark the occasion, we recorded a few thoughts about how the podcast has surprised us and expanded our own sense of both the beauty and power of silence — and the challenges that silence faces in our noisy and wounded world.

Silence is the meeting place for knowing what we have to say when it’s time to speak up and speak out. — Cassidy Hall

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

Silence is so beautiful that we have to speak out against its abuse. — Carl McColman

Episode 82: Happy Birthday, Encountering Silence
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Date Recorded: November 25, 2019

Words can’t capture the fact that silence can hold everything, and somehow hold it in gladness. — Kevin Johnson

An Orientation to Silence

If you are interested in the spirituality and psychology of silence, but are new to the idea of intentional silence, where do you begin? How do you orient yourself to the world of silence that is always available to you, right here and right now?

Silence perpetuates its life as being wordless, empty, and nothingness; and at the same time, everything, and whole. Not only does it make it infinite, but it points to its wholeness. — Cassidy Hall

Today’s episode of our podcast explores a concept that arose from an interaction between Kevin and a new listener of the podcast, that recently took place on Facebook. Realizing that we did not have a single episode that functions as a kind of orientation to silence (as something more than just the mere absence of sound), we set out to record this episode to fill that gap.

An orientation of silence centers around these questions of, “Is silence a silencing? Is it an opening? Is it an invitation?”… When you orient toward silence, maybe the first orientation is toward ambiguity.” — Kevin Johnson

We hope that if you are new to the podcast (and to intentional silence), that this episode will help to you get a sense of where we are coming from, and our philosophy behind why silence matters. But even if you have been listening to us since our first episode almost two years ago, we hope that this will be a helpful conversation — since we are all, always, continually invited to recalibrate and reorient ourselves to the gifts that silence has to offer us.

We find silence, paradoxically, in the absence of silence; that there’s something about the absence of silence that can pivot us back deeper into it. — Carl McColman

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

Carl, Cassidy, and Kevin

Episode 81: An Orientation to Silence
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Carl McColman, Cassidy Hall
Date Recorded: November 25, 2019

Walter Brueggemann: Silence and the Prophetic Imagination (Part Two)

This is part two of a two part episode; to listen to part one, click here.

The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann is the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading Christian interpreters of the Old Testament and is the author of numerous books, including The Prophetic ImaginationSabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of NowFrom Judgment to Hope: A Study on the Prophetsand his most recent book, Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out.

Anybody who is not in touch with the pain of the world probably is not a truth-teller. — Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann

Dr. Brueggemann recently joined us via Skype to talk about his understanding of both the challenge and the possibilities associated with silence,  especially the importance of interrupting coercive or repressive silence and the status quo in this world of chaos and oppression.

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

Episode 80: Silence and the Prophetic Imagination: A Conversation with Walter Brueggemann (Part Two)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Walter Brueggemann
Date Recorded: October 14, 2019

Walter Brueggemann: Silence and the Prophetic Imagination (Part One)

The Rev. Dr. Walter Brueggemann is the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading Christian interpreters of the Old Testament and is the author of numerous books, including The Prophetic ImaginationSabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, From Judgment to Hope: A Study on the Prophets, and his most recent book, Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out.

He recently joined us via Skype to talk about his understanding of both the challenge and the possibilities associated with silence,  especially the importance of interrupting coercive or repressive silence and the status quo in this world of chaos and oppression.

In his latest book, he writes:

“Silence is a complex matter. It can refer to awe before unutterable holiness, but it can also refer to coercion where some voices are silence in the interest of control by the dominant voices.” ― Walter Brueggemann, Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out.

Some other quotations to ponder:

“Multitasking is the drive to be more than we are, to control more than we do, to extend our power and our effectiveness. Such practice yields a divided self, with full attention given to nothing.” ―Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now

“No establishment figure wants to tolerate affrontive poetry that exposes the failure of the totalizing system and claims it contradicts God’s will.” ― Walter Brueggemann, Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out.
“We have seen in our own day in so many liberation struggles that the first cry for mercy does not succeed. The silencers are powerful and determined. Among us the silencers are the powerful, who have a stake in the status quo and do not mind some poverty-stricken disability, and those who collude with the powerful, often unwittingly. The work of silencing, like that of this crowd, is variously by slogan, by intimidation, by deception, or by restrictive legislation. Emancipation does not succeed most often in a one-shot effort. More is required.” ― Walter Brueggemann, Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out.
This is part one of a two part episode; to listen to part two, click here.

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

Episode 79: Silence and the Prophetic Imagination: A Conversation with Walter Brueggemann (Part One)
Hosted by: Cassidy Hall
With: Carl McColman, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Walter Brueggemann
Date Recorded: October 14, 2019