Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. — Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Last weekend my husband and I arrived at our cottage late on Saturday afternoon after attending yet another funeral. As we grow older, these funerals and memorials happen too frequently. We were both drained — physically and emotionally. After changing into comfortable clothes we sat on the deck with tall drinks. No conversation. The only sounds came from the wind in the trees and the noise from the lake.
Time passed — perhaps an hour or more before we began any conversation about dinner, the rest of the weekend and the usual cottage chores. Both of us realized how much the silence had calmed us. Experiencing that time of silence brought serenity and calm that reached beyond the power of words. We were re-balanced.
How often do we take time for silence? We spend our days with background noise — ringtones, radios, music, idle chatter, iPods, sirens, traffic, office/industrial machinery, conversation. There is little time to listen to nature nor to listen to your own thoughts.
Silence can be frightening. When you grow accustomed to background noise, spending time in silence is uncomfortable — even frightening. There may be a feeling of missing something important in the world or a feeling of wasting time. Listening to your own thoughts can be also be uncomfortable — especially if you have taken little time for inner solace. For some people, anxiety levels increase with silence. Any type of background noise provides a distraction and a relief.
Noise is addictive. In North America, there is an addictive power to doing and achieving — much of which relates to activities that create noise or that occur with noise in the background. Operating equipment, keyboarding, talking on the phone are indicators of action in the world of work. The din of the office, the sound of a cash register, the hum of a car motor may energize — but only for short periods of time.
Silence restores. Listening to your thoughts, breathing, focusing on the present moment reduces stress and restores energy. The inner silence creates a connection that allows you to ‘be’ rather than to ‘do ‘. Mental focus increases. A sense of calm and balance results from silence. For some people the inner silence is achieved from meditation practise; for others, periods of solitude or sitting in nature creates the same effect.
While your world may never be without noise, you do have the power to turn off the distractions of the cell phone, computer or the TV. You can stop and create silence in your daily life.
Last winter I did a week of media deprivation and learned how much distraction I allow into my daily life. When I feel too jangled inside I usually take time to turn off those distractions and re-focus internally. Even a short period of silence makes me a better person. I am re-charged.
Learning how to use quiet and stillness takes only a bit of time. These silences are teaching me about my life. I am still a ‘thinker’ and a ‘doer’ and will always remain active. The journey to ‘being’ is a gift that has come with retirement. Slowing down enough to recognize how to care for myself and enjoy silence is one of the healing gifts of my postworksavvy time of life.