Friday, September 11, 2015

Silence as Healing

Many of us remember exactly where we were 14 years ago when the tragic events of September 11, 2001 unfolded. I, for one, was in college and heard about it in the ladies' room, after a 90 minute chemistry class from 8am-9:30a. What I also remember about that day was the silence-the speechlessness that seemed to consume everyone. Walking across campus to my job in Academic Advisement, every individual I passed was quiet-in their own state of grief, confusion, and shock.

I was only 19-years-old, but in those quiet moments, I began to wonder how this would change us, as a nation and as individuals. When I reached the building where my office was located, the quiet was disconcerting. The only sounds came from a television rolled into the faculty lounge where everyone crowded around to watch the live coverage, all too stunned to even comment.

It was shocking to see New York City look like countries at war, ones I had learned about in class. Ones that seemed light years away from my small, egocentric, teen life. The university closed early and the ride home was solemn. I listened to the radio-every station was broadcasting live news about the events-and every car leaving the parking garage was tuned in, windows down. I was crying, as were most of the students I saw leaving campus. Then, in what I now realize was a response to my being an HSP, I turned the radio off and drove the remaining 15 minutes home, in silence.

In retrospect, it almost seemed like I was bracing myself for the onslaught of news coverage, media attention, and Internet frenzy. It was as if I had some foresight to know these might be my last few moments of silence, before being forever changed by the images I would see later in the evening. Like most Americans, I spent the rest of the evening watching news reports-absorbing every detail, every horrific story, and every traumatizing image. Silence was now a distant memory, replaced by chaos, fear, and horror. This continued for weeks, until I had reached my limit and turned off the television.

I have a clear memory of a week after the events, talking to my best friend on the phone and us both lamenting that even our beloved MTV and VH1 were airing benefits, footage, and/or stories about what was infamously being named 9/11. It wasn't that we were "over it", far from it. We were overLOADED and needed some semblance of our former lives back. What I realize now is we needed silence.

We needed the space and time to reflect and heal. I was just beginning to explore spirituality (having been cult-free for over a year) and had I begun my journey just a bit sooner, I think it would have been second nature to turn the coverage off and sit in the silence of what occurred. But, I didn't have the knowledge or know-how to do that and so, instead, I absorbed every piece of news, every personal story, every horrifying video. It should not come as a surprise that a few months later I was first officially diagnosed as having anxiety.

While I appreciate so many things about our modern technology and media, there is something to be said about allowing yourself the space and time for silence. To not worry about what you are missing or not being the first to post something on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. To be clear, I am coming from a place of complete understanding, not judgment, when I say these things. I, too, want to be involved and make an impact. I, too, want to laugh and be silly. I, too, want to know what is happening in the world the moment it happens. But, to be overwhelmed with those impulses and never give yourself time to contemplate, on your own, can be quite damaging.

So, I propose this anniversary of September 11th, make some space in your day for silence. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, without the knee-jerk reaction of drowning them out with TV, music, movies, games, news, etc. This could mean meditating, journaling, spending time in nature, making something with your hands, or just simply sitting quietly and thinking. My wish and prayer for all of us is to find peace in the smallest or largest spaces of silence we can.


Guided meditation for healing


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