Silence is Golden

Silence is Golden

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Sometimes when I am in need of something in my life I get signs, lots of them. Right now that message is about silence and stillness. I am feeling bombarded with input. Some of it has been helpful and insightful, but some of it has just been visual and auditory noise. Unfortunately, I’m feeling like I might be somewhat addicted to it, I might actually have a problem!! I’m old enough to have lived many years without immediate access to media but think I have conditioned my brain to “need the noise.”

Case in point. The other day my yoga class was unexpectedly canceled and I had an hour to spare before picking up my son at school. I drove down the street to a park with a walking trail. It was a beautiful day and I had time to get in a couple of miles. I soon realized I did not have my earbuds with me, and I kid you not, a wave of anxiety came over me! I was going to have to walk for one hour in SILENCE! No podcast, no audiobook, no music, no phone. I almost thought about just sitting in my car and listening to a podcast. It was an awakening to a sad state of affairs.

“This is ridiculous!” I thought. I got out of my car and began walking, only not in silence as I had expected. I had forgotten the sweet noise of nature. I could hear the crunching of leaves and rocks under my feet, I could hear my breath, the sound of the mowers getting the park ready for Spring. I heard the birds, I noticed the different kinds of plants and trees blooming. I actually looked into the eyes of another human and exchanged greetings rather than being lost in my own world. I felt the warmth of the sun on one side of the path and the wind on the other, unzip jacket, zip jacket, unzip again. As I looked ahead and surveyed the winding circular path, I thought, “I bet I could run this loop.” I set out listening and being mindful as my pace picked up. I could hear my breathing and began to focus on it, making sure to keep a rhythm as I ran. As breathing became a little more challenging, I focused on keeping it steady. I focused on my posture and my arms swinging back and forth as I picked a spot and ran to it and then the next and the next until I had completed the half mile. If a smile could make a noise, I would have heard that too! It was only half a mile, but I hadn’t even run across the street in a long time! I didn’t push myself to do more, like I thought I should, I just let myself enjoy the accomplishment and walked another mile.

Why have I been avoiding moments of silence? Only months ago, I felt so focused and enjoyed long stretches of clarity and now I’m feeling lost in the chaos in my head!! It might just be that I’m moving too fast and taking in too much, trying to store it, and not ever processing it. I think my brain might look like an episode of Hoarders. Can you relate?

For the sake of my heart and soul, it is time to declutter, refresh and restore.

Emily P. Freeman says in her book, The Next Right Thing, “The silence serves as a colander, helping me discern what I need to hold on to and allowing what I don’t need to fall gently away, making space to access courage and creativity, quieting to hear the voice of God.” She advises to “find small cracks of time to be silent and still.”

Similarly, Tsh Oxenrider, host of the podcast “Simple,” shared 3 reasons she thinks silence is important: to think, to hear the world around you, and to hear from God. On episode 183, “Writing + Silence,” she also describes her visit to “The Quiet House” in central Texas. This cabin is so remote you can only get there in a vehicle equipped with special tires able to go over rocks and through a river. There is no cell reception and the only connection to others is over a walkie talkie. Interestingly, The Quiet House reservations are needed a year in advance due to popularity! I guess I’m not the only one in need of silence! This is a place I would definitely like to experience in the future.

For now, I’m going to begin a few simple acts of silence in order to bring peace and clarity back into my life.

  • Hide the phone!!  After walking in the door I can put my phone in a drawer to reduce the temptation to check it.
  • Use a real alarm clock. I recently purchased this one and have really liked it. This allows you to enjoy the silence of the morning and not be tempted to check social media before your eyes even adjust to the light.
  • Schedule silent time.  I’ll start with 5 minutes and just breathe and stretch. Then I can add time each day or each week. In her book Soulful Simplicity, Courtney Carver refers to this as “habit stacking” and explains that a “slow build helps you ease in and makes your new routine sustainable.”
  • Take a walk without electronics, even if just for 15 minutes. I can increase my awareness of the sounds around me, my thoughts, and the way my body feels as I take each step.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Throw birdseed out in your yard, sit silently, and see what happens.
  • Write down 5 things that I am grateful for.
  • Read an actual book that I can hold in your hands and enjoy the sound of each page turning. As I mentioned, I tend to hoard information and not process it, so maybe a fiction book might be a nice change. I can read for enjoyment rather than to gain information to give my brain a break.
  • Schedule activities that don’t involve a phone. I could get a massage, have lunch with a friend, visit a museum, buy a canvas and some paint and go to town with no purpose, just for the enjoyment.

If you too are drowning in the chaos of noise and information, I hope that these simple acts of silence will end up being acts of kindness to your heart and soul and soon you will find yourself feeling refreshed and restored.

Until next time……be well.

Lori

Giving Thanks After the Turkey is Gone

Ahhh….its November. The air is crisp and cool. It’s time for sweaters, boots, and pumpkin spice exploding from coffee, to candles, to Frosted Flakes and Cheerios!

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. A day set aside long ago to give thanks to God for all of our blessings. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the last Thursday in November, describing its purpose as “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise for our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

When I think of Thanksgiving day, I think of all my senses being roused…red, yellow, orange and brown leaves scattered in the yard, a warm fire and hugs from family members who I haven’t seen in a while, delicious smells drifting from the kitchen, gathering around the table for prayer and then the much anticipated tastes of turkey, dressing, and sweet potato pie, and then resting with a good nap and the sounds of football games in the background. This day alone is something to be grateful for.

Sadly, right on the heels of all that gratitude, Black Friday emerges, like a wicked witch left over from Halloween using tricks and spells (e.g., advertising) to lure people into darkness (e.g., debt). A day when retailers entice you with a free TV or Instant Pot knowing good and well frenzied shoppers will end up spending money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need. A day when people who have camped out in in front of stores will then trample old ladies and small children to get the trending gadgets or toys. Just Google “Black Friday chaos” or watch the first few minutes of Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, it seems holiday shopping has turned into the Hunger Games! It’s so out of control, someone has dedicated a website documenting deaths and injuries on Black Friday. I don’t know about you, but I’ll pass on the ticket for that crazy train.

What I love doing on the day after Thanksgiving is lighting a candle, making some hot chocolate, and cuddling up on the couch with a warm blanket and a good book. I’m currently reading The Cozy Minimalist and Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less just came in the mail so I am set for days of reading! If you are looking for ideas other than risking your life on Black Friday try one of these:

  1. Attempt a new recipe with your leftovers.
  2. Clean out a closet – see if there are any coats or socks that you might be able to donate. 
  3. Make hot chocolate and play an old school board game with your family.
  4. Visit people who might be lonely in nursing homes or hospitals.
  5. Create a Turquoise Table and invite your neighbors over.
  6. Put on your favorite holiday music and start decorating for Christmas.
  7. Make popcorn, do that bluetooth thing on your TV and watch the videos on your phone.
  8. Choose a charity to support. I love what Two Blind Brothers are doing this year.
  9. Get outside and take a walk in nature. Florence Williams, explains how it makes us happier, healthier, and more creative in her book, The Nature Fix.
  10. Rest and have another day of thanks.

And speaking of having another day of thanks….I always wonder why we save only one day a year for this celebration. What if we tried to celebrate “thanksgiving” even after the turkey is gone? In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp states, “As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.”  

When I take time thank God for all the blessings in my life and actually write a few down, I really do feel joy. However, it also makes me think about how I might try being a blessing to others…..by giving.  

It doesn’t have to cost money, it could be the gift of time, words of encouragement, a hug or simply a smile. It doesn’t have to be a big production, you could just be “secretly incredible” like Bob Goff.  

In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul recalls the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The importance of giving is emphasized several times in the Bible, it can be found in quotes by Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Anne Frank, Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt and St. Francis of Assisi to name a few. Additionally, several scientific studies have found that the act of giving has numerous benefits including joy. 

It seems that the sum of gratitude and selfless giving is joy.  Thanks + giving = joy.

Wouldn’t it be great if we pushed this concept up higher on our priority list, it had a snowball effect, and our joy started spilling over to everyone we encountered?

I hope whatever you decide to do this Thanksgiving, it brings you joy.

Until next time…….Be Well.

 

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