Last week I attended a meditation retreat at Peace Village Learning and Retreat Center in the Catskill Mountains of Southeastern New York.
And I fell in love with silence all over again.
The value of deliberate quiet cannot be overestimated. It is a way to access our essence, to connect with self, and become aware of thought patterns and beliefs that are catching us up. But, in a very real way, silence also helps you connect to the essence of others. We had many meditative moments throughout the three days I was there and one two hour period of silence during Thursday afternoon.
During that longer stretch we were still in community. I washed dishes with one team and communicated openly with expression about the chores that needed to be done. We looked into each others eyes to understand. We really saw each other. We had no problem working together in the quiet. We had no problem connecting.
Gratitude Emerges in Silence
Even while alone in my room or while walking on the grounds, I kept quiet to myself. I didn’t use e-mail. I kept my cell phone and iPod off. Yet I was alive and engaged. My awareness was heightened and I felt like the silence led me to savor the experience I was having on a deep level. Out of the silence came deep appreciation and gratitude and peace.
You all know I’m a big fan of quiet moments and solitude. It is a way to go deeper, to know yourself better and connect to your spirit. But silence is also a practical way to move through the world. With silence comes creativity, productivity and calm – all things we need to manage the daily routine. It also leads to great awareness, which will help you align with your highest self and live more authentically. From that position, anything is possible.
Here are three ways to bring silence into a busy life.
1. Set the timer. At Peace Village, where the retreat coordinated by America Meditating was held, there is a practice called Traffic Control. Each hour, on the hour, music is played for one minute. During that time, everything stops. You don’t speak. If you are in the middle of the conversation, it stops for that minute. Eating dinner? You put down the fork. You stop and become present. That minute of reflection throughout the day made space for higher awareness and calm. It took me out of some of the verbal noise I was contributing and some of the unconscious thought patterns and connected me with my core. I became conscious. At first the practice felt awkward and I had to remember to stop and become present. By the end of the week, I loved it. So often our struggles are a result of unconscious thoughts and reactions, Traffic Control – a deliberate shift into non-speaking and non-doing — is the antidote. I’m working to maintain the practice at home. And here, I find it cuts the drama and raises your energy so you can stay in alignment with self.
2. Set aside time every day to turn off all technology. No music, phone computer, television. Go outside and work in the garden or mindfully wash the dishes, go for a run without ear phones. Observe your thoughts, you’ll be surprised by the clarity you gain and your focus will improve too.
3. Start and end each day in silence. Meditation is an awesome way of doing this, but if that word scares you too much, get up five minutes earlier and go to a quiet corner of the house and just sit in the stillness for five minutes. Or do a silent gratitude practice. Create a period of silence again before bed. Notice the thoughts that show up, but don’t judge them. You may want to use the time to pose a question to self: how can I celebrate the moments of my life? What can I contribute today? Or simply just observe your wandering thoughts. Notice them. These moments are restorative.
Our ruminating thoughts wear us out, contribute to our worries and keep us stuck in limiting thoughts patterns. By creating pockets of silence throughout your day you end that cycle and move into greater peace and awareness.