How much “noise” do we encounter on a daily basis? Noise from our phones, the TV, talking without truly listening and even simply our own busy “monkey” minds. What would it be like to turn off that noise? Even for a moment …
Two years ago, before the wisdom teeth surgery from hell that led to TMJ jaw pain with too much talking, I was a classic extravert. I needed to talk through everything, loved socializing, and often had multiple “talking social activities” back to back each day. In short, I did not like quiet time. Fast forward two years, while I still love talking (even if my jaw doesn’t appreciate it as much), “quiet alone time” does not feel forced but necessary for recharging and rejuvenation. So, in today’s world of noise, I thought I’d share a few ways to integrate a little more silence into your life.
1) Set the tone of your day and night by waking up and going to bed with silence (aka no phones first and last thing): Okay, be honest now, how many of you check your phones first thing when you wake up and last thing before going to bed. While technically a “non-talking” activity, our phones (ahem social media) definitely qualify as noise. This is very much a work in progress for me as I also have my meditation music on my phone (what isn’t on my phone these days haha). But how about setting a mindful intention to begin and end each day with even just a few moments of silent meditation to either drift peacefully into sleep or “wake up on the right side of the bed” (I don’t know about you, but waking up on that right side of the bed does not involve checking FB or my email as the first activity…)
2) Facing the scary prospect of being alone with your own thoughts: I’ve now realized that I used to fill my social calendar to the brim because I did not like being alone with my thoughts. They can be so overwhelming and scary! Now, have my thoughts magically become an oasis of peace and calm? I wish lol. That’s not the point though. The point is to be able to sit with those waves of often overwhelming, anxiety inducing thoughts. Just sit with them and notice them from an observer’s perspective so that you can ride their waves instead of drowning in the sea. As it says in the Bhagavad Gita, “The mind is either our best friend or our worst enemy.”
3) Try a silent retreat: It may sound daunting but what a beautiful way to recharge, and I highly recommend giving it a try if you never have. I recently did my first half day silent retreat and was amazed at how those hours flew by and how much deeper I was able to get into my meditations than say when I was only setting aside 20 minutes or even an hour to meditate. I’m excited to go for a weekend or longer silent retreat next and would invite you to try even creating your own mini silent retreat for just a couple of hours one weekend. A couple of hours of phone-and-to-do-list-free silence where perhaps you could go for a short mindful walk in nature, enjoy a mindful meal or some mindful yoga and meditation. Remember meditation does not mean you’re just sitting on your cushion the whole time.
4) Enjoy a meal in silence: Describe what you ate for lunch yesterday in detail in all five senses. What did your meal look, feel, taste, smell and yes even sound like? Having trouble? Try eating your next meal in contemplative silence and engaging all five senses in depth. Don’t have time for a full meal in silence? What about a small snack? Or the first 5 minutes of a meal. Or even a dessert meditation perhaps — dark chocolate anyone?
5) It’s ok to say no — FOMO and other things: Spending time with ourselves in silence takes time. Time we often feel we don’t have. And while much of that lack of time may come from legitimate sources such as work and family obligations, have you ever said yes to something a friend invited you to when deep down inside you wanted to say no. Why didn’t you? Was it perhaps because of that double whammy of people pleasing and not wanting to say no to your friend (why is it that we feel we can only say no if we already have another commitment with someone else not just with ourselves and me time) combined with a good dose of FOMO (fear of missing out)? Here’s the thing. If your friends are true friends, they won’t begrudge you your alone time and you won’t be disinvited from future gatherings just because you’re saying no now. Just some food for thought 🙂
6) Listen: What happens when we’re silent? What’s the opposite of talking? Why … listening of course. It’s amazing how much we can hear when we turn to silence and really listen, listen to ourselves and also to others. Try this next time a friend comes to you “in need of advice.” Just. Listen. Listen with an open heart and true empathy. Listen without planning what you’re going to reply or trying to finish the other person’s sentences or thoughts. It’s in our nature to want to problem solve and give advice to a friend in need, but you’d be surprised how many times that friend didn’t actually want your advice. They just wanted someone to truly listen!
7) Commune with nature: Silence and nature have gone together since the beginning of time. So leave your phone at home, and go outside. Sit and breath, open all your senses to what you can hear, see, smell, feel and taste. Even if you live in a city, find any small patch of green you can, and just take it in. You might be amazed how even the smallest patch of grass on the side of the road can be transformed into a whole meadow if you just look carefully enough.
Silence isn’t empty, it’s full of answers.