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

Balance

As the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey approaches, I think back and can still vividly recall the days of rain that led to our evacuation and eventually a change in perspective.

As I watched the river behind us and the lake across the street slowly turn to one and rise, my heart raced and anxiety overwhelmed my body and mind. I watched as our belongings floated out of our yard and into the lake. As the sun set, I could no longer see what loomed in the darkness, but could hear the sloshing water under our house. I knew an evacuation was inevitable, as we no longer felt safe in our own home. It was a sleepless night. As the sun rose, our mailbox and fences were no longer visible and the water was making its way up the steps. My husband had me throw what I could into a plastic bag while he swam across the street to capture a small sit on top kayak so we could make our way down the street and up the hill to safety.

As I held on to my 5 year old son and my 1 bag of belongings (which I had to downsize several times because it was too heavy), we balanced, literally shifting our weight from side to side to keep from tipping over. My husband pulled us over a mile through knee deep water, to waist deep water and at one point, chest high water with currents. We did not know what condition our home would be in when we returned but it didn’t seem to matter. At that moment, I wasn’t thinking about what I left behind, only that right then, I had EVERYTHING I needed. I knew as long as we had each other we would be ok and a sense of peace came over me.

My senses were overwhelmed upon our return. Monstrous piles of furniture and other belongings littered yards. A layer of silt and mud covered everything and an indescribable smell lingered in the air for weeks as did the nightmares of rising water. The once peaceful sound of rain, ignited anxiety and I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that we had been violated by an unwelcome intruder.

After nearly a year of putting our home back together, things are mostly back to normal but the whole experience made me think about how precious my family is to me and also made me question what I really need to be content and happy. I think it comes down to what we did in that kayak to keep from falling into the water….BALANCE.

Things seems to work better when they are balanced…..your budget, your meals, your tires. When elements in my life have been effectively (not necessarily evenly) proportioned everything seems more stable and more joyful. I want to achieve more balance in my life so that I might be able to be more stable and more joyful when the unexpected happens.

This means balancing:

work and play

Laundry and dishes have to get done and meals have to be prepared but I can balance that with watching a movie or playing with my son outside. Happiness researcher Robert Biswas-Diener, is quoted in Time magazine as staying, “Don’t fit joyful activities into your days – fit your days around them.”

noise and quiet.

Being the mom of a 6 year old boy means lots of noise. Sometimes we turn up the music and play guitars and sometimes we read books on the couch.

bringing stuff in and letting stuff go.

When I bring in a new treasure for my home I make sure to let go of the items that no longer bring me joy or no longer serve a purpose.

busyness with rest.

It feels good to cross of items on my “to do” list but if I take a little nap or just a break to let my brain and body rest, I will feel completely recharged.

purpose and presence.

For several months, I have been writing in a gratitude journal and reading a short devotional each morning as I drink my coffee. However, lately what felt good and relaxing, was feeling like a chore. I felt like I needed to get it done before I could do anything else so I recently began waking up earlier just to sit on my porch and watch the sunrise and listen to the birds. There I sit quietly and think about the things I am grateful for and breathe and simply be.

Changing my perspective about what is important and putting into action a plan to achieve balance in my life is making a difference. It’s not always easy but I am finding that I am more joyful and I am certainly more thankful for what I have because you never know when it can all be washed away.

This post was published at NoSidebar you can see it here.