Sunday, September 6, 2015

Silence is the New Black

I am guilty of what many of us do: fill quiet moments with unnecessary (often mundane) chatter to avoid silence. I call this "jibber jabber," (taken from the indisputably hilarious relationship of "Penny" and "Sheldon" on The Big Bang Theory).

To me, jibber jabber and small talk has become mind-numbing. It appears the more change our world sees (socially, politically, environmentally), the more obsessed with monotony some become. For example, on a day when marriage equality is achieved for the entire country AND the President of the United States attends funerals for some of the Charleston 9, I may hear two neighbors discussing, at length, how the time the mail arrives has changed over the past few months. This is just one of many examples. I have never before heard so much discussion about mail arrival, lawns that need mowing, why this restaurant opens at 11:00 versus 12:00, and so it goes. I don't mean to sound judge-y, but for real? In the words of one of my favorite comediennes and podcasters, Jen Kirkman: "I don't want to do small talk anymore, I want big talk." I am beginning to reach a point where I am interested in one of two things: big/ "medium" talk or silence. Larry David has similiar sentiments.

In this post, I am hoping to encourage all of us, myself included, to enjoy, accept, and embrace the silence, when big talk isn't possible and small talk is irritating. In graduate school for counseling, we learned silence is not only a good idea, it is essential to growth. It gives both the client and clinician the room and space to process what has already been said. In a world where it is easy, most times unavoidable, to fill every silent moment with media static and white noise, this concept may seem unconventional. I am positing that it IS unconventional and that can be good.

I, for one, am constantly inundating myself with noise. If it's not TV, it's my iPod. Or I'm watching videos on YouTube, answering e-mails and texts, while also balancing my checkbook. In fact, as I write this post it is the only silent moment I will likely have today and yet my mind is still quite stimulated. As someone who struggles daily with mental hygiene, I speculate my avoidance of silence is due to fear of the places my mind wanders when there is no stimulation. The far reaches of my mind where dark thoughts, sad memories, and fear of the future reside. On days I am particularly motivated to embrace silence, I often achieve this by still distracting my mind, just in a less noisy way-reading. While it is a much needed break from screens (unless I'm using my Kindle...), it is still distraction from silence in its truest form.


It may be obvious to some what I am suggesting: less time online, more time outside, put your phones done. And that is all true, but I am also challenging us to go a bit deeper than that. Instead of only leaving 5 minutes before bed for meditation or 10 minutes in the morning for solitude, I am advocating a Lifestyle of Active Quietude or LAQ, as in lack of distractions, lack of noise, lack of disturbance. We can all use LESS in our lives. In fact, I have designed a second blog to devote especially to this idea. New blog here!

What I am suggesting may seem radical: how does one build a lifestyle around quietude? Like any change in perspective, it will surely take time and patience. It will involve yielding to other disciplines as well, such as mindfulness, choiceless awareness, and compassionate love (all topics that will be discussed at length in my additional blog). It will also involve actively setting boundaries with myself (limit game time, limit the number of times I check Facebook, designating certain times for texting), as well as boundaries with others. Admittedly, I have a tendency to become rigid and obsessive any time I implement a plan, no matter how beneficial it is or how good my intentions are. Something I need to be mindful about. 

Some ways I hope to spend my quietude:
  • Reconnecting with a spiritual path
  • Spending more time in nature
  • Reviving new creative interests
  • Finding new hobbies
  • Enhancing meditation practices
  • Journaling
Some things I hope to learn from my quietude:
  • Patience
  • Mindfulness
  • Non-judgment
  • Compassion
  • Gratitude
  • How to let go of all "The Stuff"
I am eager to begin my journey and grateful to have the time and space to explore my solitude to its fullest. While I am hesitant to see what lies in the quiet moments I so desperately try to drown out, I am hopeful that taking time throughout the day to be quiet, mindful, and aware will only calm my chaotic mind. 


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