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Dec 2014 by PCI College

Bite-Sized Book Review: Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation by Richard Rohr

As the Christmas season approaches, Clare Burke finds insights on love, intimacy, solitude, religion, prayer and deeper connection with God in a short book by Richard Rohr. 'Silent Compassion' urges us to put aside the distractions of noise and activity and to fall into 'the safety net of silence'.

When invited to make a spiritual addition to the PCI College bite-size book review collection, this book written by Richard Rohr immediately came to mind.  Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest, spiritual teacher and author of many books on spirituality, including 'The Naked Now' and 'Falling Upward'. He is the founder of the Centre for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico (www.cac.org)

Self Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation is instantly attractive given its length (71 pages), as well as its compact size, you could do a Paris Hilton on it and carry it around it around in your bag like she does her Pom, Prince Hilton...

The central premise of this book concerns silence. I am really intrigued lately by how challenged the human species is by silence, myself included, hence the appeal of this book for me.  Rohr postulates on our addiction to noise, activity, distraction so remarkably evident in the Western way of life.  Jump on any Luas right now in Dublin; I can't guarantee you a seat but I can promise you will be met by passengers draped in some sort of device distracting them from the experience of simply sitting and being.  Some of them will be adorned in ear phones, others will be using their phones to text, play games, tweet, others will be talking to each other, or in some cases shouting so that everyone is privy to their meanderings. Even those who appear to be in their own company are possibly entrenched in an incessant stream of inner noise in the form of egoic thinking about the past or future. There is a chance that somewhere in the far distance there sits a Buddha, chanting internally and devoid of inner or outer noise, but alas it is a slim chance I fear (although open to correction on this one).

Inner, outer and spiritual silence are forms of being that are lacking in mainstream society.  Hop off the Luas and head for the Franciscan Friary on Merchants Quay or head up to Parnell Square and slip into the Hugh Lane Gallery, and fall, as Rohr describes in the book, into the "safety net of silence" (p.15).  Get away from noise and try to quell your own internal noise is the central message of the book.  This is a refreshing exploration of the mystery of silence and how beneficial a more silent (as opposed to solitary) way of life could be for us noisy and restless souls.

Rohr also explores the Union of Silence and Contemplation.  The 'contemplative mind' is that which is cultivated through deliberate and disciplined silence achieved through, for example, centering prayer and meditation.  By practicing inner silence, that is silently repeating a sacred word to oneself for a fixed length of time in the case of centering prayer, it becomes more possible to relinquish the grip of egoic and dysfunctional thinking.  ("Contemplation is about making you conscious of such things", p.21). In my view, dwelling less in the confines of thought can only be healthy as anticipatory, judgmental, fearful thinking creates an insanity which leads to anxiety and depression as well as deep unhappiness.  We are not listening enough to ourselves, to each other, or to a transcendental spirit, as we are too concerned with filling our minds and relationships with thoughts, words, tweets, texts, news, music and mayhem.

So, if you have a taste for more insight on love, intimacy, solitude, religion, prayer and deeper connection with God, then I would recommend this little book - if not for your handbag or manbag, then perhaps as a special Christmas gift for a kindered spirit.

Clare Burke, MIACP (December 2014)
PCI College Lecturer

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