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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.