In this world that is filled with so much noise and distraction, it is often difficult to hear ourselves and to separate what we know and feel from what the world tells us we are supposed to feel and believe. As a result, even though an increasing number of us value prayer, reflection and meditation; even though we are aware of the value of listening in the silence, a number of us fail to turn very often to this one place where we can get in touch with ourselves, with greater meaning and purpose and with the wisdom and grace we call ‘God.”
In fact, instead of choosing the silence, it seems that in our technology-driven world we are becoming more and more addicted to the noise. And as a result many of us feel uncomfortable and awkward when the noise stops. Perhaps, you are familiar with this experience. Perhaps you notice your discomfort when the kids go off to school (for a few hours or for a few semesters) or when you put your baby down for a nap. Perhaps it happens when you stay late or go in early to the office and experience how quiet and private the space feels without all the daily hubbub. Perhaps you experience this discomfort early in the morning or late at night when you can’t sleep or when you go out for a walk alone in the woods or when are in your workshop or your family room without music or the television on. Yes, whether at work or at home, early in the morning or late at night, the majority of us are living lives that are noise and distraction filled.
Focusing on noise and distraction, of course, gives us the impression that we are doing something. And in our productivity-driven, activity-mad world, doing something allows us to hold onto the illusion that everything’s okay. For doing, like noise has become a part of our addiction. Of course, it’s been that way for eons, but since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution it has gotten out of hand. That’s when we began to believe that our worth was measured primarily by how much we produce. Yes, that’s when this new and obsessive form of what Don Miguel Ruiz and the Toltec call ‘domestication’, came into the picture. More recently, of course, productivity has been joined by accumulation and consumption, upping the ante dramatically on the perceived value of doing.
In our case, we’ve discovered that something else happens when our lives are filled with noise and doing, we get to avoid some of our fears, some of our concerns about the unknown, our regrets about the past or our worries about the future. Yes, the noise and the doing mask the fragile nature of our beliefs, our vulnerability and confusion. And as ‘masters of the universe,’ we don’t like feeling fragile, vulnerable and confused, do we? So we tend to go deeper into the noise and the doing rather than have to face the discomfort of “not doing” or of doing “no-thing” which is called “being.” For in this world where productivity, performance, accumulation and consumption are worshiped, being is viewed as wasting time. “Get busy!” we are told. “Do something!” You know…idle hands and all of that!
So here and now, we invite you to stop for a few moments, turn down or away from whatever noise may be going on and whatever you are doing and allow yourself to feel into some of that restlessness and discomfort, that undeniable urge to fill up and preoccupy. Yes, we invite you to feel into how strong this urge is to avoid the present moment.
So close your door, turn off the TV, radio or iPod, turn away from your computer or smart phone and sit back in your chair, close your eyes, take a few long, slow breaths and give yourself the gift of five to ten minutes of silence. Five to ten minutes isn’t such a long time! So just close your eyes, follow your breath in and out and pay attention. And then, when you finish giving yourself this gift of five or ten minutes of silence, come back and finish reading this article.
If you gave yourself this small gift of silence, what did you notice? Did you notice that below the discomfort and the mind chatter there is a longing for a deeper level of purpose and meaning in your life? Did you remember how much you value a little peace and quiet? Did you sense a different connection to yourself, and desire for a more balanced way of life?
If some or all of this is true, then perhaps you’re ready to create a new habit – the habit of looking for these experiences where you can actually find them. Perhaps you are ready to go beyond this preoccupation with noise, with other people’s answers and opinions; and with all of the doing that is so rampant in our world today so you can remember that in the silence you show up – God shows up!
Perhaps you are ready, as Thich Nhat Hahn says, “to come back to the island of the self.” Ready to come home to greater sanity, compassion and connection to truth.
We leave you with this reflection – The answers I seek will not be found in the opinions and beliefs expressed by others. They will be not be found in noise and the distraction of doing. They will be found in the stillness within me. So today I remember that all I have to do to get to the silence is to follow my breath, be patient and listen. My breath is my doorway to the remarkable place within me called “home.”