Counselor's Corner: Silence and listening

Fred Cavaiani

Listen with the letters rearranged becomes silent. Silent with the letters rearranged becomes listen. For the past two weekends I experienced another depth to the meaning of “silent” and “listen.” This past weekend I gave a weekend retreat to 71 men who came away to a retreat house to learn how to listen and become silent. It was a retreat to learn how to listen to God, and to one another and to become silent and listen to the wisdom of God speaking in the depths of one’s own soul. These wonderful men listened to one another with compassion and humility. They also listened to my conferences and to meditation with the same humility and with open and compassionate hearts and minds. I witnessed these men cry and laugh and share from the depths of their hearts about their own personal struggles and failures with humility and honesty. They allowed themselves to plunge into the depths of God during this cold February weekend. At about 2 a.m., a man, quite intoxicated, climbed over the fence surrounding the retreat house, barefoot with bloody hands, knocked on the door asking for help. These wonderful men helped him, talked with him, gave him socks and called his brother who came to take him home. They did this naturally, kindly and with great compassion.
In becoming silent and learning to listen, these men discovered the depths of love and service to others. They took a weekend out of their lives to come away and be quiet and listen to a deeper wisdom stirring in their hearts. To be in the presence of these men was a profoundly spiritual experience. By getting away from everything to become quiet and listen to a deeper meaning about life, the rushing through life stopped. The present moment became embraced. God began to be experienced on a deeper level. It happened through becoming silent and learning to listen.
The previous weekend I was in the hospital for four days with cellulitis. It was a quiet four days, hooked up to an IV. I learned again the value of becoming silent and discovering the power of listening to God and to other people. In becoming silent, listening happens. People experience someone who can be silent as someone who can be peaceful. I discovered that nurses like to come and share with someone who appears peaceful and has the ability to listen. Those four days in the hospital were another retreat for me. They helped anchor me and ground me. It was a great preparation for the retreat I was giving the following weekend.
When we become silent we listen and receive. During the Super Bowl on Sunday evening the commercial of Paul Harvey speaking about farmers was deeply moving. Everyone became quiet and listened. Finally, a commercial that touched people’s hearts. Maybe those who make commercials are finally getting the message that when you express positive and profound emotion and connect it with a product you transfer that positive and profound emotion onto the product. This commercial made everyone in the room listen and receive. Ram Trucks should be very proud of this commercial.
In peaceful silence good things will happen because we learn to listen reflectively. In hectic activity it becomes difficult to listen because our mind keeps rushing. In silence we learn to get in touch with our heart. The mind will always follow the heart. But the heart will not follow the mind. If we open up to what is in our hearts our mind can then make sense of it, but not vice versa.
I will make time for even more silence in my life. This will help me to listen to you more carefully and discover deeper meanings in every moment of life. I have experienced two consecutive weekends of silence that helped me realize more fully the importance of having daily silent times for meditation. I need to become silent and listen in order to discover that joy and freedom can be experienced at every moment of the day.
Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is