It is a very common occurrence for people to have a discomfort with silence. I wanted to reflect a little today on the benefits of finding your peace with quiet.
I recall many years ago my first silent retreat. I fell into it really, an introductory retreat at a Buddhist Retreat Centre, for which I had somehow missed the essential information that there would be no talking.
I was sat in the room, feeling daunted by the number of people, wearily summoning the strength to do small talk and casual chat, which has never been my happy place. When the group leader explained that we would not be talking for 44 hours my main response was relief, I felt freed from the social awkwardness of a room full of strangers. And I was. Out of the frying pan into the fire of an intense encounter with myself!
Silence has a quality to it. It's actually not quiet. I find it turns up the volume on my thoughts, on the music that plays in my head, on my emotions, on body sensations, on sounds in the environment. It makes space to really notice what I otherwise might miss, and with practice I have learned to find joy in the greater awareness that silence brings.
It can be challenging frightening even, to begin to be with yourself without distractions. Often people fear overwhelm, and use the TV, podcasts, music, background noise and other people to avoid whatever it is they fear will come up and make its presence known if they make space for it.
The trouble is, whatever it is we dodge is already there anyway. That's why we know to dodge it. The more we avoid, the more insistent the message in the form of thought or feeling will need to get to do its job and draw our attention to where it is needed.
And so silence helps. It opens up awareness, and enables not only listening but also reflection. It does not need days and days to work, just little pauses, breathing spaces, that can elongate as you become more familiar with it.
These days, in the context of busy family life, I savour the quiet moments. They give space to check in and really notice how I am and what I need. It's not always easy, or gratifying, sometimes tuning in reveals truths the leave me uncomfortable. But, oncr I know about them, I can do something to make a difference, and that I treasure.
What will you hear within yourself if you find the silence from which to listen?