Book Review – Inviting Silence: Universal Principles of Meditation by Gunilla Norris

by Mark Votava


Gunilla Norris has written a wonderful book in Inviting silence! I highly recommend this book for anyone who longing to live into their true self.  Norris invites us into silence as a countercultural practice in our twenty-first century world.  This is rare but much needed in our hyperactive lives.

I have found that silence is so life balancing for me.  It requires trust, vulnerability, listening, attentiveness, stillness, awareness, presence and mindfulness.  These are the values that hold my life together.  These are the practices that help me to be in relationship with others in community.

This book moved me to embrace the living of my days instead of just enduring them.  Silence opens up the possibilities of this within me.  I am resonating with the common ground of silence where I can listen to the forgotten parts of myself.  The true self is revealed through silence.

Silence used to be terrifying to me, but now it is essential as I have found it to be my true nature.  It is where I like to be.  I am learning that I can practice an attentive silence when I am with others in conversation, dialogue and presence.  The paradox of silence is that there is no dualities with it.  Silence flows through all of life where we learn to see everything as sacred.

Gunilla Norris’s book centers on beginning silence, growing silence and practicing silence throughout our everyday lives.  This book is a challenge to our noise addicted world.  She says that silence is almost something like an endangered species, but so essential for our times.  We can never discover who we are without silence.

Silence has posed the question to me, “What will serve life right here and now?”  This question is shaping me so much.  Living into this question has been a redemptive practice that is leading to deeper levels of compassion and love within me.  It is helping me to know myself better and find ways I can engage the world more authentically.

  • Trusting the life-giving nourishment of silence

“We endure our days rather than embrace the living of them.  To enter the realm of meaning requires attention and dedication.  It requires an interior, reflective life.  It requires the calming of our usual chattering minds.  It requires trusting the life-giving nourishment of silence, that vast field of permission and sustenance in which our lives are held.”

  • Silence is our deepest nature

“Silence is our deepest nature, our home, our common ground, our peace.”

  • Listening to our longing

“When we apply a little pressure of the will to listen to our longing it becomes our friend.  We are in fact yearning for our essence, our true self.  This longing can be trusted if we do not avoid it or dissipate it with increased doing or patterns of distraction and consumption.”

  • Stillness and listening

“Over time the habit of recollection leads us back to the center, to stillness and listening.”

  • Silence is something like an endangered species

“In our present culture silence is something like an endangered species…  We need it badly.”

  • Becoming more aware of what is around us and within us

“When we pause and do it frequently, we begin to be more aware of what is around us and within us.”

  • What will serve life right here and now?

“When we ask, What will serve life right here and now?  we begin to live in a larger picture.”

  • An offering of our awareness, our participation, and our willingness

“We cannot really experience anything without being present to it.  True presence requires that we be attentive to what is happening here and now.  It is an offering of our awareness, our participation, and our willingness…”

  • Being present, moment to moment

“It takes time to rediscover the treasure of silence.  In it we can be found again.  But we learn this only by learning.  By being present, moment to moment, we may discern the richness of silence in ourselves, and in each other.”

  • Trusting that we can and will meet life as it happens

“In our culture we do not trust time.  We try to defy time.  We steal time.  We kill time.  We want to control the flow of events, instead of trusting in a natural progression – instead of trusting that we can and will meet life as it happens.”

  • The natural joy that is already inside us

“By cultivating silence, we can find and release deeper and deeper levels of pain and so discover once again what is beneath the pain: the natural joy that is already inside us, free to rise and flow into expression.”

  • Hearing our forgotten selves

“In silence we can learn to hear our forgotten selves, to feel and to respond to the deeper levels of our identity that are surfacing at last.”

  • Maintaining our illusions of safety

“Our minds do not like paradoxes.  We want things to be clear, so we can maintain our illusions of safety.  Certainty breeds tremendous smugness.”

  • Mindfulness is much like physical training

“Practicing mindfulness is much like physical training.  The long-distance runner must deal with the hills as well as the valleys.  The hills are hard.  And they make one strong.  If we can welcome them, and know that they will be followed by valleys, we will be learning something about steadfastness.”

  • To become ourselves we need others

“To become ourselves we need others.  Only in and through relationship do we truly become persons…”

  • Our essence is revealed and refined in the practice of silence

“Our essence is revealed and refined in the practice of silence.  It is that living, luminous core which in the end is the greatest gift we can give to one another.  It is true inspiration… the breathing of life.”

How have you practiced silence in your life?