Enjoy the silence

I have a confession to make. I struggle with silence.

To be fair, some of my struggle is the external circumstance. I am the mother of two preschoolers, and not long ago, there was also a teenager in the home. My house is LOUD. There are many joyful sounds, and there are persistent whines (X2). There are sounds of slamming doors, dropped toys on hardwood floors, thrown shoes, the dog giving not-so-subtle yippy warnings that she doesn’t want her face touched with a Batman figure. There are uncontrollable giggles at nap time, delaying that coveted 1.5 hours of peace that I won’t have for much longer.

What I imagined spending quality time with my children would be like,
before I had children.

When the shop is closed, I am home with my little ones. On those days, I often try to make product and plan marketing materials with constant interruptions. There are requests for snacks, assistance putting on a doll’s clothing, fights to break up, time outs to enforce. I recently came to the realization that I can no longer bring my son with me to the grocery store. He has begun testing boundaries by licking the meat packages and deftly, silently hiding in shelves so that I experience that terrible panic of having lost him in a store. Some days I feel like no one listens to me and that I’m a control freak for even asking them to, repeatedly (a minimum of eight times before anyone even looks up or takes pause.)

This is a picture of me trying to get my 3 year old to sit down in the shopping cart while another mother with a well-behaved child looks on.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Does your mind just hurt some days and want to take a day off? Oh man, do I crave absolute silence! I can feel my brain cells dying on days like this, and I wonder how I ever had time (or focus) to read a book with my first child and if I ever will again.

Before I sound like I am just complaining, please allow me to acknowledge that on some level, I struggle to find silence because I don’t actually want silence. Yes, I did just admit that.

I have to work very intentionally to create space to explore and live a more spiritual life. In this way, my time as a project manager and event planner has served me well. I can squeeze ten minutes out of any hour if I want to. My spiritual health is an essential part of my overall wellness, and my ability to explore it is most precious and sacred to me. I would be so screwed without my spiritual practice. And yet, without complete awareness, it often falls to the bottom of my list.

WHY? If it’s so important, why does it come last?  I think this is partly due to the social conditioning women undergo from childhood telling us that everyone else has to come first. There’s also “mom guilt.” I fall prey to these ideas even though I am a fierce individualist and I never want to admit that the things that are true for others are also true for me.

But, also, if I am to be completely honest, it’s fear.

My practice includes daily ritual, devotion, and meditation. It requires me to focus my attention single pointedly, and then to allow vacuousness and silence to enter in the meditation portion. In effect, I am allowing everything, including myself, to be just as it is, without projecting my judgment and ideas upon it, without my worry or concern. I have successfully created space for this in my life by coupling it with my time spent outside caring for the goats on our farm. I know it’s the most luscious feeling to enter into that state, but honestly, some days I really dread it! Some days I will do anything to avoid it, including rationalizing that I am running late, that I’m too busy, too hormonal, or cannot find enough quiet or focus to really get to my practice, so why bother?

When we allow for silence, we must face what comes with the silence. I don’t mean this in a scary or dark way. Sometimes silence brings epiphanies and big realizations that seem born on the wind, like a whisper and an “Aha!” These realizations can be a jolt, a vision of the shadow side of my thoughts and actions that I don’t want to face, but they can also be so comforting, ever-present and absolutely TRUE that I wonder how I ever missed the connection or forgot to feel the amazement. There, I said it! The scary and fearful part is acknowledging I’ve closed myself off from the Divine in favor of the mundane details and concerns of everyday life. When I shut down silence, I forget. But when I am silent, I know who I really am, what my nature is, and feel a connection with the divinity in me.

The ego is naturally affronted by silence, because it strips some of that layer away. The truth is that this is the soul’s work, work that we all need to do. It is the literal lifeline. Let’s all make time for silence.

What I hope to accomplish in the 10 minutes between when dinner ends and bath time begins.

Here are a few ways that I make time for silence in a busy, loud life:

I wake up 30 minutes to one hour before the rest of the household and I spend that time reading nourishing books and writing. This could be substituted with morning pages, yoga, meditation, a walk, etc…

I do outdoor chores in silence. Physical work can be a very effective meditation.

I spend time by bodies of water. My favorite is the ocean, but when I am very stressed, whatever is close! The tinkling sound of a little stream, a riverside, or a pond, where no one else is around, can be just as healing. Water affords reflection.

I escape to the yard for five minutes and watch the shadows shift beneath the trees, on the ground. Better if it’s a breezy day- the sun spots dance and sway to mesmerizing effect. A hammock also helps.

I spend the last five minutes before I drift off to sleep calmly, gently releasing all thoughts that surface, breathing rhythmically, and peering into the brilliant darkness behind my closed eyes.

How do you enjoy your silence? Leave a comment or email me your thoughts and tips!!