Written by Founder and CEO, Sara Potler LaHayne
The feeling is too familiar and omnipresent. Walking to a morning meeting – riiing – it’s your office calling you about a change to a later meeting in the day. Getting into the elevator, you quickly scan emails with no real possibility of responding, just reviewing with the sole purpose of being aware -and probably anxious and distracted about what’s inside. Knocking on the door to the meeting, Mom is texting about her upcoming visit in a month and asking for dinner recommendations in the city. You sit down for the meeting and fight the urge to respond to or acknowledge the barrage of emails and texts coming through on your device. Even the person you’re meeting with gets pulled into three other conversations in his office while you’re there for your scheduled meeting. All this and you still haven’t had the opportunity to respond to the social media requests, pings, and tags that have been flowing your way throughout the work day.
With all of this constant noise, how can one find quiet and clarity?
The first thing that we must do is claim the importance and role silence serves in our lives, in our productivity, and in our creativity. We must seek out silence and hold it sacred, because if we don’t, it’s the first thing to get sabotaged by competing demands from family, work, and life.
What’s the first thing you typically reach for when you wake up? I’m guilty of it too. It’s your smartphone. Whether you’re reviewing your meetings for the day, checking notifications you missed overnight or just checking the weather, do not grab for your phone first. Better yet, sleep with your phone outside of your room and on airplane mode. There’s no use in hearing it buzz, seeing that blue light, or having the representation of all things noise next to your sleep chamber disrupting a solid night’s sleep. Instead, wake up and grab for your loved one, or breathe five deep breaths and soak in the quiet and solitude of the early morning. Use that time to set an intention for how you want to feel that day. When the first thing you do is grab for your phone, you’re allowing other people to set those intentions for you and direct the trajectory of your day. Invest in an alarm clock and take back your mornings.
As our days progress, we don’t have to succumb to the noise, even if we live in a big city. We can find moments for a walk around a quiet block or park, or dip into a quiet cafe to collect our thoughts over silence. Afraid that city living doesn’t afford these silent spaces, and unsure where to find them? This app is crowdsourcing the best places to find peace and quiet.
Traveling on a train or a flight? Use noise-canceling headphones – without the music- to block out crying children, loud travelers on conference calls, or side conversations. Keep the music off and enjoy the pure state of silence to see how it fills you up.
Finding silence wherever we may be, doesn’t necessarily mean exiling ourselves to a silent meditation retreat for days. For some, it’s responding to messages or social media in designated chunks of time instead of allowing them to overwhelm us completely; and for others, it is retreating to a park bench for 20 minutes to watch the birds or going off the grid for an afternoon. There’s no cookie-cutter strategy; it’s our job to do the self-work required to determine what that silence ideally looks like for each of us. However we choose to find silence, it’s an act that’s both personal and shared with our community. When we build in times for silence, we find opportunities to connect and feel compassion for ourselves and those around us. Cultivate a moment of silence for yourself, and notice the way it shifts how you feel, how you give, how you care and how you create.
“Within each of us there is a silence
– a silence as vast as a universe.
We are afraid of it…and we long for it.
When we experience that silence, we remember
who we are: creatures of the stars, created
from the cooling of this planet, created
from dust and gas, created
from the elements, created
from time and space…created
In our present culture,
silence is something like an endangered species…
an endangered fundamental.
The experience of silence is now so rare
that we must cultivate it and treasure it.
This is especially true for shared silence.
Sharing silence is, in fact, a political act.
When we can stand aside from the usual and
perceive the fundamental, change begins to happen.
Our lives align with deeper values
and the lives of others are touched and influenced.
Silence brings us back to basics, to our senses,
to ourselves. It locates us. With that return
we can go so far away from our true natures
that we end up, quite literally, beside ourselves.
We live blindly and act thoughtlessly.
We endanger the delicate balance which sustains
our lives, our communities, and our planet.
Each of us can make a difference.
Politicians and visionaries will not return us
to the sacredness of life.
That will be done by ordinary men and women
who together or alone can say,
“Remember to breathe, remember to feel,
remember to care,
let us do this for our children and ourselves
and our children’s children.
Let us practice for life’s sake.”
— Gunilla Norris