I have just returned from a week away in the beautiful mountains of Colorado where I was participating in a spiritual leadership training program. Part leadership development, part meditation practice, along with a healthy dose of reconnecting with nature, the program asked each of us to explore the question, how can I be of best service to my family, my community, and the organizations in which I work during the difficult times we are currently facing as a nation?
There is a lot to unpack from this experience and I suspect I will be doing so for a while. My initial thoughts, however, come from the way we started each day while in training– in silence. Each morning, from the time we woke up (for me that was about 6:00 a.m.), through our morning meditation, breakfast in the dining hall, until our first learning session at 9:00, we were asked to remain silent.
This was new for me- spending the first three hours of each day in silence even as I was at times surrounded by people. And it has gotten me thinking about our need as a society to fill every moment of the day with activity, noise, distraction, and chatter. A friend of mine pointed out recently that she can’t even fill her car’s gas tank anymore without a screen babbling to her in the form of advertisements, celebrity gossip, and “important” news of the day. From early in the morning until we collapse into bed at night, exhausted, we run ourselves and our children ragged racing from one activity to another- work, school, the gym, sports practices, tutoring, volunteer obligations and more-all while listening to podcasts, audio books or music while driving; receiving and responding to texts and emails throughout the day; updating multiple social media accounts with our whereabouts and pictures of our specialty ‘Frappacino’ and lamenting to friends and family that we would love to be spending more time with them if only we weren’t so busy.
Why do we choose this constant state of busy? And can we be clear that it is a conscious choice? As I theorize about why we make this choice I can’t help but ask myself these questions: What are we trying to prove by maintaining this constant state of busyness? What do we think we will accomplish? What are we trying to avoid? What is the void we are trying to fill? Are we so afraid to spend quiet time with our own thoughts and feelings?
I can’t answer these questions for anyone else but I can share what I learned by taking a few hours each day to slow down, be still, and be silent. For me:
- Silence creates space for things that are often times squeezed out in the busyness of each day- divine presence; prayer; clear and calm thinking- just to name a few.
- Silence leads to noticing. In these moments of silence I found myself more awake and aware of what was happening around me and inside of me. I listened more deeply, observed more carefully, was more in tuned to how I was feeling.
You may be thinking- this is all well and good if you have three hours a day to dedicate to silence and stillness. How am I, this very busy person, supposed to find the time to be silent? We may not have a few hours. I certainly don’t in my “regular” life. I am suggesting, though, that perhaps we take back a few minutes from our day to sit quietly and see what comes out of it. What will fill the space that you create with silence? There is only one way to find out.