Marham monastic ruins inspire Sarah Sands' new book: Interior Silence
An author from West Norfolk with an impressive media career has released a book extolling the virtues of silence.
Sarah Sands, a prominent figure in the world of journalism, has edited the Sunday Telegraph, the Evening Standard and Reader’s Digest.
As the editor of the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4, she was at the heart of many social issues that divided contemporary issues- for many still the show that sets the news agenda of the day.
Now she has turned her hand to writing a book, titled The Interior Silence: 10 Lessons From The Monastic Life.
The book’s roots begin in Marham, where Ms Sands lives and where she has become fascinated by a wall in her garden that once belonged to an abbey founded in 1249, which was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1536.
The wall, which peeks out from behind some trees, is a centuries-old structure, that now acts as a nursery for wide-eyed owlets.
In 1249 nuns once scurried, prayed and ate behind that wall, something that Ms Sands spent a lot of time pondering on.
Her intrigue sparked a worldwide journey, one that breathed new life into the bones of the nuns that once lived there, and monastic silence in general.
She told the Lynn News: “I have spent my life in a world where everyone is talking, there is so much going on, and coming back to Norfolk started a journey for me that was centred around silence, and the eventual writing of this book.
“There is a wisdom in the monasteries which answers the affliction of our times.”
Ms Sands travelled with her 24-year old daughter to Japan and many other locations worldwide, gleaning the secrets of silence that not only pertain to the Christian faith but also Buddhism and other religions as well.
From Norfolk she travelled to a dark sky observatory in Scotland, a Coptic desert community in Egypt, Buddhist retreat in the mountains of Japan and Bhutan, where the King “turned happiness into a political project”, and a monastery in Assisi.
Ms Sands said: “The journey made me think of silence in a different way, not only is it internal and personal, but within the monasteries silence can also be a communal experience.”
The editor’s job will have required her to spend many hours looking at a screen, slavishly checking for news updates and texts.
We have become omni-available and omni-visible.
Modern life requires us to be by our smartphones 24/7, as our heads once bowed in prayer they now bow down to that little screen in front of us.
She said: “If I could give people a piece of advice it would be to switch off their phones and be present, enjoy nature. I love Norfolk and the scenery around here.”
Ms Sands said: “I’m not saying I know any more about anyone else, but the journey has had an effect on my life and I want to share that gift with others.”