In his book, Companioning the Bereaved: A Soulful Guide to Counselors and Caregivers, Alan Wolfelt gives 11 deeply thoughtful guidelines that strike me as not only helpful when journeying with those in grief, but for any set of relationships including that relationship that we might cultivate with our own souls, our own deep and true self. One of his guides is this:
Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling every painful moment with talk.
It occurs to me that The Library is one of those places where human souls of all ages and circumstances may first encounter the many gifts of silence. Libraries, certainly modern libraries, while not utterly silent, do provide spaces where people can settle into and allow themselves to be enveloped by silence. Some people seek out those spaces and can describe that nook on the 4th floor of the university library that became their “go-to” spot and really saved their sanity during college years. A gift of silence. Others may talk about how uncomfortable libraries are because they are so quiet–another, even if strange, gift of silence–when we finally hear it. The silence of the library can allow us to hear some of those things that we have been trying to shout down inside of us. Others know the silence they find in the library as the comforting shawl that wraps around them, holds them, and allows them to really begin to see, hear and feel the larger world. When one’s immediate circumstances are violent and abusive, one cannot see beyond the next escape. Silence provides a certain kind of protection for the battered soul to find itself. Another gift of silence.
Where are those spaces of silence offering their gifts to you today?