Review: Mindful Silence
Mindful Silence: The Heart of Christian Contemplation
The purpose of this book is to guide Christians seeking relief amid the turmoil of this world, especially those brought to the limit of themselves in service to others. Phileena Heuertz shows us how to achieve a much-needed state of peace through contemplative prayer. Through her personal experience of burning out in the mission field, Phileena helps us recognize our need for renewal through silent awareness of God’s presence. She shows us how to quiet our own inner voice of need and dissatisfaction—to be liked, to have control, fear of pain, and more.
This book is a guide for awakening to the truth of who we are and what we feel, which is necessary for the death of our self-serving ego. Phileena opens our eyes to our own addictions in the form of compulsions to be identified with what we have, what we do, and what others think about us. Each chapter guides us through the process of learning to be more aware of the false needs that create our false self. This necessitates confronting the perception of being what others need us to be. It’s through the letting go that we find ultimate peace in trusting God’s will and not our own. Phileena helps us to see that our actions are often our way of coping.
Phileena guides us in learning to find peace in our identity through the Lord, and not through being the person we identify with, like a character in a book about our life. Rather than avoiding the pain, helplessness, and stress of our lives, she instructs us to face it and even embrace it. With a quote from Richard Rohr, she tells us, “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.” Only then can we find healing in God by embracing peace through mindful silence in our time with God.
At the end of each chapter, she gives us spiritual exercises to help us practice what we’ve learned. Some examples are: Breath Prayer, the Welcoming Prayer, and the Jesuit practice of The Prayer of Examen. This is a book you’ll want to read, pen in hand, to highlight kernels of wisdom. Here are a few of my favorites:
- We tend to take better care of others than of ourselves.
- Being childlike for God is to let ourselves be led, to let go and follow God.
- Dare to confront and contend with your inner turmoil. This forms the vessel to be filled with God’s healing.
- We do not come to contemplative prayer to experience something pleasant, but rather to learn how to be content in all circumstances.
- As we lay down our self-will, we stop resisting what is and stop clinging to what might be . . . developing the capacity to be present to what is. We gain a state of open and receptive awareness to encounter God.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. With roughly 170 pages, it is an easy read, uncluttered by superfluous detail. This is a book to keep at ready access. You might even want to buy an extra copy to keep on hand for a friend teetering on the edge of burnout or disillusionment.
Phileena Heuertz and her husband operate Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism, a place of retreat to nurture the space between contemplation and action.