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Silence: Radical Act, Essential Luxury

"It is indeed a radical act of love just to sit down and be quiet for a time by yourself.”

— Jon Kabat-Zinn

It can be such a personal puzzle to be all the things we want to be for ourselves and the people around us amidst the busy din of our daily lives. The oppressive cacophony and our incessant inner critics makes it especially difficult to be thoughtful and compassionate at times when we most need to call on these inner strengths in business and in life. We’re constantly on to the next task, falling forward in our minds and bodies, scarcely able to finish a thought or a feeling or sentence before responding to the next email or text, petty irritation, or global catastrophe.

How can we cultivate our human superpowers when we can’t even hear ourselves think?

One antidote? More Silence.

Silence can be golden, and noble, and scary, and all too scarce. We so rarely give ourselves the gift of quieting down enough to hear the call of our true nature long enough to allow it to be a guiding force for interbeing. Let alone sense and respond wisely to:

  • our team’s growing frustration

  • our partner’s simmering resentment

  • our own yearning for more meaning

  • a child’s quiet distress

  • a gut feeling

  • the miracle of our own heartbeat singing inside our chest

All that is right there waiting for us to notice in the many moments we squander in losing ourselves to all the noise - both literal and figurative. Mindlessly distracting ourselves from our own inner wisdom and that of others by maintaining a sustained static that blocks us from being truly present for our lives.

We all do this. And it takes practice to turn down the volume - audible and otherwise.

I recently had the insane privilege to retreat from all my noise at a weeklong immersion experience in mindfulness and heartfulness at Omega. Silence was a featured element. A tool to encourage indwelling and a steady quieting of the mind and slowing of the hurried pace that drives our daily doings. For much of the time we were not speaking, reading, or directly interacting with staff or fellow sitters. In this collective silence, we may have been more present and engaged as a room full of strangers than we sometimes are with beloveds waiting for us at home. It was mentally and emotionally chafing. It was physically arduous. And it was the sweetest relief from modern living and plunge into intimate relatedness I have ever known. After the 36 hours or so it took me to truly quiet down, the unbroken silence allowed me to tap a well of stability and inner knowing that once tasted, cannot - must not - be dismissed or forgotten.

The Trick is Remembering to Remember

Since returning to the world, I have endeavored to create more ways to turn down my volume on a daily basis. The trick is remembering to remember. Everyday I scatter new breadcrumbs on the path back to myself that seems always to be disappearing in the dark wood of distraction and human conditioning.

For me this means daily meditative practice and prayer. It also means intentionally less screen time, less talking, and more listening (to myself and others). It can also mean taking a few aware breaths before meeting or Zooming or pulling out of the driveway. It means leaving my phone out of the bedroom and banning it from my daily walks.

I am seeking and cultivating silence during conversations, meals, driving, waiting, preparing meals - and during the infinite number of moments between this and that when it can be so automatic for me to scroll through my phone, jam another podcast in my brain, or lean on Netflix, instead of actually being awake for this miracle of a moment, and this one, and this one.

How many have I missed already today?

It’s not simple. In fact, it’s tough. But it feels like an essential luxury I can’t afford to live without - no matter what the cost.

Need help turning down your own volume? Remember that we’re here with mindful solutions and professional encouragement to help people and teams face the noise of busi-ness and life.

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