BOOK REVIEW By Julia Menard: "Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day"

Music and Silence Benedictine BookThis fabulous book review from Julia Menard gives us a beautiful summary of the book highlights - inspiring us to slow down, follow the day's natural rhythms and bring more sacredness to everyday life. Julia also adds a few practical tips and questions for us along the way - and I just love how calm I feel after just reading this book review!

Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day, by Brother David Steindl-Rast and Sharon Lebell

In Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey through the Hours of the Day, Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast and Sharon Lebell provide a thoughtful guide to the value of taking reflective pauses during our daily lives. They describe the eight components of a Benedictine monk's day:

1) Vigils

Vigil means to keep awake - to watch. This is the time of the "night watch." Most monks are up in the dark before dawn to go to oratory. Symbolically, the darkness is "an invitation to trust in night", to trust the mystery present in darkness. It is a time for spiritual pursuit, meditation, prayer, silence, listening to music - this traditional Benedictine practice is called Lectio Divina, Latin for "Divine Reading".

2) Lauds

Laud means to praise (applaud!). Lauds is the attitude of gratefulness - symbolized by the breaking of the dawn and our gratefulness for the coming of the light bringing us out of darkness. Lauds can act as a daily reminder to see sunrise as a gift come unbidden - and can help us see everything as a gift.

Tip: Since most of us are not up before dawn, it might make sense to wake up and praise (Lauds), then carve out even 15 minutes for one's devotional time (Vigils) .

3) Prime

Prime means first - or beginning time. This is the time when work begins. We pause before we start the work day with "planning" - taking time at the beginning of our work day to "think ahead, to get priorities clear, to give some thought on what matters most." To set our priorities according to our "heart-felt intentions." We can also remind ourselves of how our work contributes to "the whole human enterprise... We are all working together with others whom we will never see."

Question: What do you do to get your priorities clear and plan your day ahead? If not, how do you think this would benefit you?

4) Terce

Terce (or tierce) means "third." It is the third hour of the day - a "monastic coffee break." Steindel-Rast suggests we make it a "prayer break." He offers one way to pray: by paying attention to our breath. "Each breath flows in as a blessing...Blessing is well-wishing... Each breathe out flows out as a sharing of that blessing." There is an art in learning to recognize a blessing when we see one!

Question: How could you take a mid-morning break and use it as a time to reflect and reconnect to yourself?

5) Sext

Sext means six - and this time is reserved for the sixth hour of the day: Noon. Steindel-Rast describes this time of the day as a "time of transition, rousing us to stay the course, not be lured by the devil of depression - slipping resolve." Sext is also associated with crisis - where we face a barrier or challenge and need guidance to know what to let go of to be able to make it to the other side.

Question: At this lunch-hour time of day, perhaps just before we eat, we can ask: "What can guide me now?"

6) None

None is nine: the ninth hour of the day - mid to late afternoon. It is the fading part of the day, the time of decline, when shadows begin to lengthen. The fading of time brings home death and impermanence and the need to connect with something transcendent (beyond time). This perspective helps us connect with what is most important. It is an opportunity to acknowledge the limits of our lives (families, jobs) and the meaningful things that happen there. We can use this time to let go of unmet expectations, reminding ourselves to live fully within our lives as they are, as captured by the injunction: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). It is also a time to decide the next steps needed to deal with the essentials. A time to find the end, to bring things to a point where we can leave them as they are and where we need not take them home with us.

Tip: Set aside some time before the end of each work-day to bring what you are working on to a neat close and be sure that everything you needed to do today is done.

7) Vespers

Vespers mean evening and this time of the day celebrates the coming of the night. It is a healing time - in the sense that "healing involves knitting together of what is apart or broken." Early evening is also a luxury time, a time for culture in the sense of evening meditation, music or good food. When evening arrives, people have a "universal desire to find a serene place where they can put all the parts of the day together - to let go of the day and luxuriate in the quiet beauty of the evening."

Question: In this busy world, what could you do to let go of the day and luxuriate in the quiet beauty of the evening?

8) Compline

Compline means complete. It is the conclusion of the monastic day. Late evening is devoted to preparations for sleep and for reviewing the day that is about to end. It is time to take stock, perhaps by writing a few lines in one's diary about what the day taught us or about what we might still need to consciously let go of from our day (that still binds us to the day). "We confront our inner darkness at Compline by examining our conscience, by asking: "What went wrong today? Where did I fail to meet the challenge? Ask for forgiveness and resolve to do better tomorrow."

As we turn to sleep, Steindl-Rast offers that we can see "God as a mother hen who gathers her chicks under her wings. Infinite darkness is maternal - returning to our spiritual womb to be reborn again the next morning."

Tip: Having a small ritual that completes your day can be a powerful way to set your mind at rest, and be sure to learn from your mistakes!

If you love reading then check out The Top 10 Coaching Books to Make You a Better Coach!> >

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Contributing Author:

This article was written by Julia Menard, PCC, M.Ed. and Professional Certified Coach. Julia has a Masters in Educational Psychology specializing in Leadership. She helps Leaders Transform Workplace Conflict through Coaching, Mediation and Training. To learn more about Julia and her work, please check out her website And if you're interested in communicating better and staying calm during conflicts be sure to check out Julia's great ecourses on how to have tough conversations and how to stay cool during conflict. Lastly, join other collaborative leaders receiving regular conflict guidance by signing-up for my newsletter here.

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