Daring to Do Nothing

It’s odd how guilty we feel when we do nothing, as though there were something sinful or shameful about it. It’s the same with silence. We are often unnerved by it and do whatever we can to fill the apparent void. So, we live in a world restless with activity, deafened by our own noise and the chatter of those around us. As for solitude, forget it! Loneliness is to be feared as the ultimate indicator of failure, and being alone is to be equated with loneliness, isn’t it? I don’t think so, but I suspect I am in a minority.

One of the hardest things to learn in the monastery is that silence and not-doing and spending time in solitude are the way in which we experience the word and activity of God in our souls. As soon as one speaks of the soul, of course, some people become uncomfortable. The truth is, everything we see or hear trembles on the verge of eternity — only we devote huge efforts to ensuring that we never actually peep over the edge. ‘It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God,’ says the Letter to the Hebrews. Terrible, indeed, and there are few who dare to let go and allow God to be all in all.

Today, if you have the opportunity of a little more silence than usual, the chance of doing nothing in particular for a minute, of being alone for a while, allow yourself a precious moment or two of prayer. Invite God to fill your emptiness. Paradoxically, you may discover that daring to do nothing is the most worthwhile activity of all. Try it.

 Good news for Howton Grove Priory
We are delighted to announce that we have a Certificate of Sponsorship from UKBA for our postulant-to-be from New York. All being well, she will join the community this summer — just a year later than we had originally hoped!


11 thoughts on “Daring to Do Nothing”

  1. I sometimes sing (ironically, but wasted on my teens) Snow White’s “I’m busy doing nothing, all of the long day through, trying to find lots of things not to do. I’m busy going nowhere…etc”

  2. Stephen Cherry, a Canon at Durham Cathedral published a book titled ‘Beyond Busyness: Time Wisdom in an Hour’ which echoes the sentiments expressed here.


    I normally get time at Dawn (I’m an early riser) to do exactly what you describe. Take some time in silence and solitude to pray Morning Prayer and to reflect on the day ahead, It’s something of a habit. I’m often comforted by one of our cats being alongside me, contentedly purring as I stroke her gently. This really helps to bring down the levels of activity and to concentrate and to allow contemplation perhaps of something that I might be having to deal with in peace and quiet.

    This time is precious before the hustle and bustle of the day arrives. I’m fortunate to be retired and am able to go to Church for Holy Communion on three days mid-week as well as on Sundays. These are again reflective times as normally on a Sunday I will be engaged in some form of ministry during services, which while a privilege, means that you’re assisting others worship experience and can be distracted from your own.

    Silence is golden is an old saw, but one that is so true in a busy, demanding world.

  3. I have been reading for a little while but not commented so far.
    Thank you for this timely reminder. I am the stay at home mumma for 5 children 8 and under. It is wonderful but not quiet! I am learning to take those moments of quiet, however small, to stop and breathe in God.

  4. I love solitude and I love silence. Doing nothing is more challenging. After working hard all my life, I have found it ridiculously hard to slow down after having a heart attack three years ago. I often feel guilty.

  5. Times of prayerful silence are becoming a more regular part of my life and I notice such a difference when I do it. I have been helped by the Lectio section of the Word Live website and their daily email. The comment be the mother of five children reminds me of a story of a busy Christian mum with many children who used to put her apron over her head and her children knew that was her time not to be interrupted as she prayed. I love this image even if if might not be an apron these days. I love reading your tweets and your blog. It always gives me something to reflect on.

  6. Like (the other Maria) I too value silence and solitude in my life. I believe this stems from being an only child. I find time for morning prayers and reflection as I am retired. Once up and out of bed, I keep busy this is my nature. There is a period in daily Mass for prayer. The world around us is a constant buzz of noise, this can be an annoyance, but I thank God that I am able to hear.

  7. I always hated silence and hated being on my own but now I love it. It is amazing what one hears in the silence.
    I always feel closer to God. What I love most is moving
    from the silence to JS Bach ah paradise

  8. I call it my quuiet time, in the am and at night time I have a time of being quiet, listen to the silence, It is a time when I talk to the good Lord. It is my time that I pray and let the good Lord guide me through my day.

  9. I’m often amazed by how hard it is to just… stop. I pray the Office through the day and it is flavored with all the minutiae of life. Surrounded by “enemies”? Sing the Office and you’ll find a holy community!
    My best time for solitude and silence is the middle of the night. I look after newborns at work so I figure rising in the night is a good penance to offer for the mothers and babies. But, while hard, it often isn’t penance. It is quiet and I am unbothered by the busyness of the day. I say Nocturns and have a special, intimate quiet time with God. Strangely enough, it seems to give me strength. I love to view my relationship with Jesus, even after leaving the convent, as a spousal one and the middle of the night is a time for lovers and mothers, isn’t it?

Comments are closed.