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Getting Quiet

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“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I cannot speak highly enough of the wisdom of being quiet, or at the very least, taking a pause.

Mind you, I am not talking about the silent treatment, or stuffing your feelings or being complicit through silence. Those are different things.

I lean towards being an introvert, so I will admit a bias (there are moments when I wish people would just stop talking).

There are, I know for a fact, moments my kids wish I would just stop talking, lecturing, cajoling, trying to convince or fix them. Holding my tongue with my now grown children is a skill I continue to practice.

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

–Mark Twain

Pause and listen.

… Mmmm, hmmm, huh, ahhh, yes …

There it is again—that lovely YES.

A note to the skeptics who are yelling, “Yes, but….”

Yes is not being complicit. Yes is not saying I agree. Yes is acceptance of what is in this moment. Yes is I am listening. I hear you. Yes is you matter.

Sometimes after yes, no is the answer.

These may be the most useful communication tools we humans could ever learn.

When you don’t know what to do (or say) next, be quiet.

I’ve been waiting for a sign or a feeling to pull me in one direction or another. Waiting is all I seem to be doing. And looking. Waiting and looking.

I just signed up for a 3-day silent meditation retreat. It’s not my first, but it’s been a while. I have a love/hate relationship with these retreats. They can be excruciating. They can be liberating. And in the end, they have proven to be exhilarating. At the very end.

I’ll be honest: there’s a part of me that doesn’t really want to go. I’ve found a pretty comfortable rhythm with my mindfulness and meditation practice. Comfortable. For me that’s the clue that it’s time to shake things up a bit. It’s my kryptonite.

With the current upheaval of home in my life, circumstances have led me to trade my morning sit (meditation) for a morning stroll on the beach. Not a bad trade-off, really. A mindful pause, leaning into pleasure and lightness. All good.

And, getting quiet is where we can access a deeper more sustainable connection to the divine (the divine that lies within us, not out there somewhere). It can feel scary at first. Lonely. Dark. Where our deepest secrets and fears lurk about in the shadows.

Here are some things that can be revealed on silent retreat:

  • Social norms we perform to make it appear as though we are good people. Layers of characters we put on to just get through the day, they just get stripped away and we are first left with our discomfort in not being able to perform them. The next thing that happens is relief, in not having to perform them.
  • Habits of thinking. ‘Cause when it’s quiet, for days, there is nothing to get in the way of incessant, habitual chatter. And while it can be terribly annoying, it’s also a gift!. For me, the loop (whatever the current loop is) spins nonstop, getting louder and louder, until I tell it to fuck off. Or it becomes so boring I stop paying attention to it. Or it just burns itself out. That can happen—it can just burn itself out.
  • Magic. Just that. I am magic. You are magic. Stars align, birds sing.

We are equal to our experience

The invitation on retreat is to turn inward. To practice self-kindness and care. To leave your assumptions at the door. On one retreat I was bunking with two other women. During the first group session a question came up of how to communicate with our fellow roommates about the details of sharing a living space. We are all equal to our own experience. That was the answer. We have what it takes; we don’t need to wait for others to take care of us. If it’s hot in the room, we could remove a layer of clothing, or open a window. If someone is cold, they could add a layer of clothing. If everyone is adding layers, maybe it’s time to close the window. Go inside. Pay attention. What conditioning is at work? Nothing to fix. Nothing to change.

Take care of ourselves first. Let others take care of themselves. It’s all very contradictory to what we’ve been taught.

We’ve been taught to be responsible for others, but not ourselves. That’s uncaring and selfish.  

Certainly there is a time to speak. Wisdom may be knowing when.

Mindfulness practice is the freedom to choose.

Radical compassionate acceptance is forgiving yourself no matter which way you go—and laughing at the crazypants human that resides in you when it feels like you got it all wrong.

Sometimes shit happens. And that’s that.

I promise, you’re doing the best you can.

Give yourself a little space. A little quiet.

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