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I have written about silence/contemplation/solitude before. Allow me to do so again…

This afternoon I arrived at the Abbey in Farfa for a retreat on Elderliness. We are staying in the Abbey, managed by a group of nuns. Whilst I have serious issues with the church in the way that it has become, there is a lot of meaning in the way of life that the nuns lead.

The most startling awareness as I got out of the car was the silence. After a weekend in Rome, it felt as if I had suddenly gone deaf! Not a sound. The inside of the cloister is cool and even more quiet. In fact, it is completely and totally silent. Soon my ears start picking up the sounds of nature – pigeons and “sonbesies” (cicadas).

Nothing else…The silence required and essential to listening to what I am sure the Nuns would call the voice of God. I call it Divine Wisdom.

In our world of technology overload and noise pollution, this silence is eery. (Not to mention my tinnitus…). We are no longer used to absolute silence. Every moment of our days is filled with noise. Mostly noise!

As we grow older, contemplation and reflection are our greatest gifts. It comes naturally and should be fostered with great care. We no longer need to be constantly entertained or in the presence of noise (also known as entertainment). We can actually be with ourselves easier, relax in our own Presence, and be still. The best way to detox our brains (literally and figuratively speaking) is silent meditation, something that does not come naturally to our Western minds. We need to fill the silence with talking or constant sounds. Silence makes us feel uncomfortable. Yet, it is only in silence that will connect to our inner Knowing.

One day when I am old and maybe forgetful, my greatest need would be quiet solitude. I remember my paternal grandmother sitting alone with curtains drawn in absolute silence. I used to feel sorry for her, thinking that it must be awful to be so lonely. Now I understand that so much better, and wish I knew then not to try and cajole her out of her silent contemplation.

Silence is our rewiring, if we can give way to thoughts that distract us. It is like cleaning the desktop of your computer of all the files that are open and slowing things down. It creates space. It opens neurological access for Being, just Being in perfect harmony with nature. Then intuition enters. Synchronicity appears. Wisdom.


What if that is what fills the Mind of the person living with memory loss? A new Knowing, a contented understanding, detached from this realm and Divinely connected to Another? What if dementia is a way of detaching ourselves from our passage to something far greater than just this concrete place that we know?

I don’t know, but somehow I nd a deeper peace in most people living with memory loss if we stop seeing them as sufferers, feeling obliged to change their behaviour and trying to get them to stay as they were. Perhaps we should start learning from them…

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