The Call of Silence & Stillness
by Katie Dutcher
During weekly drop-in meditations at the Studio, we are often honored to host people who have never meditated before, or never in a group setting. It is such a treat to offer a meditation, and to witness what it is like for people. Many times, people try to put into words what they’re feeling afterward… and find it difficult.
Reading their faces, there is relief, awe, peace, amazement. I know that it hasn’t necessarily been easy for them to sit still for 30 minutes… and yet what I see on their faces and hear in their voices tells me that they have experienced something brand new, like finding a room within the house of their being, which they never knew existed.
There’s so much that’s beneficial about meditation, but one of the main sources of this awe is the power of silence, stillness, and presence.
How often do we stop moving?
How often do we stop talking and interacting?
How often do we experience the silence that is always in the background, behind the input of music, text, TV, and so on?
How often do we let our bodies be still… without intending to go to sleep?
How often do we stop distracting ourselves?
A Clearing in the Forest
I imagine our lives like a dense forest, filled with trees, undergrowth, and brambles. We’re walking through this forest day after day. It’s a really nice forest, even though it’s hard to walk sometimes with all the vines and bushes crowding the path.
And then we come to a clearing, a wide-open space, perhaps with a broad view in all directions. There is something so blessed about this clearing after hours of trudging through the forest.
Silence and stillness offer this clearing. Here in this clearing, we can let the heart, mind, and body catch up to each other and be reunited. We can see beyond what is right in front of us, with a broader perspective. We can simply sit and REST. We can do nothing, just allow our thoughts, sensations, and emotions to parade past, without interfering or fighting... just witnessing and experiencing.
Many of us have a complicated relationship with silence and stillness. On one hand, we may fear or mistrust silence and stillness.
It holds the flavor of the unknown: what will happen? Will nothing happen? What if I get bored or restless? What dangers and memories lurk in the depths, that may awaken if given a moment’s opportunity?
Silence and stillness are culturally problematic. Who am I, what am I worth if I’m not doing something, saying something? What if I don’t accomplish enough today? Am I entitled to the luxury of quietly sitting still?
On the other hand, we deeply crave silence and stillness.
This is what has us looking for meditation classes, doing digital detoxes, going camping, dreaming of a tiny cabin in the woods off the grid (is this just me?). There is a part of us that is deeply drawn to simplicity and quiet, and the peace that is on offer here.
Listen to the Call of Silence and Stillness
I invite us, I urge us to tune in to the call of silence and stillness. We’re craving it for a reason, perhaps for many reasons. We need perspective, we need the space to come in contact with our true selves, we need a freaking break…
And it is worth passing through the initial discomfort (fear, boredom, restlessness) to see what is on the other side.
Ways to Invite Silence & Stillness
First, recognize that silence and stillness are always here. They are the default state. Silence is here, unless we fill it. Stillness is here, unless we move. There are even pockets of stillness and silence between the movement and noise, if we just pay attention.
Next, be willing to experiment, and to give up an all-or-nothing approach. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we don’t need to hermit ourselves away in order to experience the benefits of a little more peace and quiet. We also accept that we live in a noisy world.
So start small, start where you are:
Maybe that means one car ride per week without the radio on.
Maybe it means taking your lunch break to just eat slowly and not do anything else.
Maybe it means getting away from town for one hike or walk.
Or maybe it’s sitting by a tree instead of being on the move.
You can try making little shifts in your daily routine to encourage being in this mode:
(These are just some ideas to get the ball rolling…)
Charge your phone in a different room. Delete the apps that addict you and stir you up. If your phone is beside you, turn it face down so that you don’t see it light up with activity.
Choose times of no background noise: leave music, TV, and podcasts for another time.
Choose the quieter activity. When there is a choice of how to spend your time, see if you can choose whatever is quieter, low-tech, and more still. Drawing rather than TV, for example.
Ask for quiet. Negotiate. If you find yourself in environments where someone else is determining the noise level, try to negotiate a time of silence.
Do one thing at a time, not two.
Check your email every few hours, rather than 700 times (is this just me?).
Opt out. Is it ok to go off by yourself when you’re with a group, doing lots of group things? Is it ok to say no to one more non-essential task?
When you leave your car, make sure the radio is turned off. Then, the next time you drive, you will need to make a conscious choice to turn it on or leave it off, rather than finding it already playing.
Go outside. Leave behind your phone, or tuck it as “away” as you can. Find a place to sit, and just sit there. Let yourself get bored if you get bored. See what bored feels like. See what happens after bored.
You know some other ways. What is calling you?
Oh, and hey why not try meditation? :)
What happens if you gift yourself that mental clearing space more often? What if even a minute or two of just breathing counts as good medicine? What if you let go of formality, of wondering “What do I do?” and “Am I doing it right?” and just be there for a little bit? (Find a couple of my guided meditations and resources here.)
An Invitation to Each of Us
Let’s give ourselves permission to be quiet.
Let’s give ourselves permission to be still.
Let’s give in to our deep wish for open space and peace.
We will find wonders there that we did not expect.