“Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.”
You may have been given this advice from a wise person before.
However, this isn’t an article on how to listen. I want to take a little different slant.
We wear ourselves out in thoughtless pursuit of goals worth little. We run from one thing to another. Have you ever been in an airport, on a college campus (probably high school too), or any highly-populated area and noticed how many people aren’t paying attention to what’s around them b/c they are texting, wearing headphones, or just doing anything to keep them distracted? I can’t even fill up at the pump without a TV in my face.
As I was shaving recently, I noticed the silence around me. It was early in the morning, no one else was awake, and I actually took note of the serene feeling. This may seem like an obvious observation, but it wasn’t. I normally didn’t recognize the lack of noise and distractions while shaving previously.
“Silence is a resource… In the future, people will be prepared to pay for the experience of silence.”*
For those with families – especially little children – you know that finding quiet time takes great effort. Even the bathroom isn’t a sure bet. Many times, little fingers shoot underneath the door and I hear “Daddy, what are you doing?” (repeated several times). It usually means getting up early or staying up late. Or more drastically for me, taking a business trip.
I don’t want this to turn into a “How to hide from your kids” article b/c what I’m trying to get at is we are entitled to spend some time with ourselves in introspection, in solitude. You don’t need to have children to justify alone time. We deserve time to ourselves. How much? That’s up to you (and maybe your spouse).
Why should I worry about quiet time to myself?
This list could probably go on and on, but here are a few reasons:
- Your brain needs time to rest and replenish. Having no distractions gives you the time to clear your mind and focus. It’s a reboot for your brain. There is something soothing about silence. It calms our bodies and turns up the volume on our inner thoughts. Some people can’t stand silence, but give it a try. I’m not saying for even an hour, but try it a few mins and I think you’ll feel more at ease. Take some deep breaths (or box-breathing). You will feel a difference.
- Allows time for self-reflection and assessment. How am I doing? Am I the person I envisioned myself being when I was a child? What areas do I need to improve to better take care of my family? Etc. This may coincide with writing in your journal and setting goals.
- As someone who prays, it creates an environment where I can recognize promptings from the Almighty.
How can you do this?
- The obvious is get up early. Most productivity experts will tell you earlier in the day is the best time to get things done. For me, it’s also the best time to be in silence—reading, journaling, writing and enjoying the few minutes of hearing the birds as the sun begins to rise. Plus, I like knowing that while most people are sleeping, I’m doing something—which in this case is sometimes nothing.
- Next time you’re driving alone, don’t turn on the radio. Enjoy some quiet time. Yes, you must focus on the road, but it’s still a nice change to have that silence.
- While waiting at the doctor’s office or to get a haircut, try reading one of the magazines in the waiting room. Or just sit there (but you may have to make a concerted effort to not look like a weirdo). You’ll be one of the very few without your phone scrolling thru other people’s best moments.
- When you work out today (train, run, etc), don’t put in your ear buds. Just work out in silence. If you’re running or biking, it’s a little safer too. If you’re in a busy gym, you’ll still have noise, so this may not apply as well. For me, my gym is quiet and I regularly don’t listen to a podcast or music, but rather enjoy the quiet while training. Yes, I know… you need that guy yelling in your ear to give you an extra boost. I’m not saying stop doing that, just try the silence occasionally.
“Freedom from noise and goal-directed tasks… unites the quiet without and within, allowing our conscious workspace to do its thing, to weave ourselves into the world, to discover where we fit in. That’s the power of silence.”*
Give it a try
An advocate for silence is Mark Divine. To quote him, “We are pretty good at doing things, but we are shitty at the non-doing part. We need to spend time cultivating the non-doing things, which include self-awareness, journaling, and contemplating. And this has a profound effect over time.” I’m a believer in what he teaches about breathing, meditation and getting out in nature.
Focusing on disconnecting and enjoying more quiet time this year has been valuable for me. I’ve written more in my journal, set more short-term goals, and self-reflected. Give it a try. It will be worth it.
And one more thing; no I don’t claim to be all-knowing on this topic. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for several months and have made conscious efforts to incorporate into my life. And I like what it’s done for me.
Below are a few resources on the topic. Let me know how you break from the noise and make use of the power of silence, firstname.lastname@example.org