The Big Silence

If you haven’t seen it yet I would seriously recommend taking some time out to watch The Big Silence.

It’s a tiny wee mini series following 5 (lay) people as they explore the importance of silence within the Monastic tradition.

It’s really challenging. I never take time out in silence. I’ve been getting a kind of cabin fever these past few weeks: feeling an inexplicable need to get out of Edinburgh, longing for the beach or to be up a hill somewhere, but I think that actually I’ve just been missing silence. Life has been so hectic and crammed full of things that even days off and times of rest come with things to do “whilst resting”. Even this past week, in the 24-7 prayer room at church, I’ve noticed that I have to put a CD on in the background and feel like I have to be writing and reading lots. There is no silence any more.

So, during my 9am prayer slot yesterday (the most civilised hour of prayer yet, I might add), I just sat, in silence for about 45 minutes. It wasn’t easy. My brain is so full of junk that I just kept getting caught up in thoughts of busyness but there was, at least, a sense of peace, of stillness. And those 45 minutes flew by.

The best thing about the programme is that all five of the volunteers, only one of whom had faith before beginning the process, were met by God. All. Five.

I’ve always been a firm believer in the still small voice of God. The one that wasn’t in the earthquake or the storm or the fire but in the silence afterwards (1 Kings 19). So I’ve resolved to build more silence into life. More listening, less talking.


22 thoughts on “The Big Silence

  1. The Big Silence was awesome! I was really excited for them all at the end of (I think) the second episode… and then by the third they all seemed to be replacing the word ‘God’ for ‘Universe’ and things like that… slightly frustrating?!

    Sorry for the random comment! 🙂


    • Yeh, the older guy was definitely using “universe” a little too much for my liking but I wonder if that is more out of fear of using “God” – with all the religious connotations he would rather avoid – than a genuine pantheistic belief?

      thanks for the comment! 🙂

      • I just think he went back out into the ‘real world’ and remembered all the things he thought he knew about Christianity/religion/God and forgot all the things he found out about Jesus in his silence! Hopefully the people he met on the program will keep supporting him and he’ll keep finding out more of the important things 🙂

  2. The Big Silence was such a brilliant programme. I felt that it was very real and honest (and wished it was on at a more prominent time). Their ‘journey’ through the whole programme was so real, it hit a cord with me. There were many poignant moments and words, but the words ‘in the silence you find your soul, and it is through your soul that God finds you…’ I can’t find the words to say what it meant to me. A wonderful programme, well done whoever came up with the idea. I am making time for my 20 minutes of silence

    • their journey was incredible – and in such a short space of time too. i’ve been making time for silence too – how’s it going for you? i find i get distracted by thoughts very easily but am working on it 🙂

  3. The God you do NOT believe in does not exist….
    I’ve found the programme challenging. Exciting. Worrying. Wonderful

    • it’s so true, and such a powerful statement! (there’s been a lot of chat about the necessity of existence as an attribute of “God” in my philosophy lectures recently too)
      I think many will have found that, Susan, and I hope we all explore it rather than just hiding in our busyness as per usual . . .

  4. I would like to thank the BBC for showing this series of programmes (The Big Silence) and also the five who took part for allowing their experiences to be televised. I thought it was wonderful.

  5. What a wonderful programme ~ I hadn’t noticed it was on, tucked away on BBC2 where Freeview has poor reception!! Only found out because a friend told me about it…then had to catch up on IPlayer….

    I hope there is another programme soon! I hate silence, but following the programme have started trying to instill some (Christian) silence into my life!

  6. Unfortunately I missed watching ‘The Big Silence’ and it is no longer available on BBC iplayer – does anyone know if it is going to be re-broadcast or where it might be possible to watch a viewing if it?

    • I did manage to find all 12 parts of The Big Silence on You Tube to some friends who missed the series.

      It’s lovely to see that some people have gained something out of the experiment we went on.

      Thoroughly healing.

      Carrie x

      (1 of the 5 contributors)

  7. Would love to know if the three episodes are going to be turned into a commercial DVD? Can think of many, many friends who didn’t see the series but would love to.
    Can anyone recall the name of the production company?

  8. Thanks Toby! I have sent the youtube references on to several friends. I agree with Edith. This is the most meaningful thing I have ever seen on a screen and thank you to Worth Abbey, the retreat centre and the participants for allowing me to share it.

  9. I live in the U.S., but I watched the show via You Tube. I loved it!! I wish they’d do the same thing here. There’s a lot more “Show” of religion in this country – but spirituality still seems to be a “luxury” of the few.

    I’d rather have deep spirituality than outspoken religiosity. I’m just pleased that people are seeing into the deeper, more meaningful spaces in life.

    I don’t think God minds that people don’t call him out by title – he’s always been more concerned about love than theology.

    • thanks Altar Ego, totally agree on the spirituality vs. religion front (just wish “spirituality” didn’t sound so wishy washy, airy fairy! rather prefer thinking of it as relationship)

  10. Yes I loved this program. I’m fortunate that my life does allow me to make time for silence.

    I wondered when Fr. Jamison spoke of having a place one could visit for silence, could he also mean that place could be inside oneself. That after silence takes hold in one’s being then it’s a place inside that one can always visit even in the hurly burly of life.

    It is the sense that we always have to do something, that crowds out silence from the inside like the working mum who thought the world would stop if she didn’t do all those busy things.

    I think that Silence is going to be something big in my life from now on because I’m discovering the real freedom it brings.

    Thanks to everyone involved in making this TV program.

    • I think what you say about a place inside oneself where there is silence is spot on, Michael. We can sit in a noiseless space all we like but quieting the heart and mind are another matter entirely.

      I think one of the most difficult things about silence and prayer is that we feel guilty for not “doing” anything. Our efforts have no physical or obvious product and the world tells us that that is a waste, when, actually, what we’re gaining is worth so much more.

      Thanks for your comment!!

  11. I’d love to catch uip with this series, but all i-player ever says is that the content is not working. After several days of fruitless trying, not impressed (will now resort to youtube – thanks for the links).

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