I think most of us would agree, modern day life has become so dominated by progress and achievement. By being efficient, productive and successful. ‘Crazy’, ‘busy’ and ‘frantic’ are words we often hear from friends or colleagues when we ask how they are doing. Imagine the looks you would get if instead you replied saying you were relaxed, content or had ‘just the right amount’ going on! We even describe our lives as being in the ‘rat race’ – a phrase originating from situations where cage rats were given a circular path to run on that led to nowhere but was an extremely exhausting endeavour.
The domination is firmly on doing, rather than being.
I, amongst many, have fallen into this trap. Thinking that achievement was all I wanted to define me, making progress was the driver for my day and time spent relaxing was time wasted. But in recent months, I have turned a corner and found a new way to live. Spending 10 days in silence was a big part of this and lockdown has certainly reinforced the value of slowing down.
Well before Covid19 gripped the globe, I read that hobbies such as knitting, gardening and stacking wood are on the rise. Interesting. I think this shows that many people are craving simplicity and have a desire to turn to something basic, something authentic and to find peace in that.
For many of us, lockdown has brought us the opportunity to do this. It’s given us something so rare and precious in today’s world – time. Time to pause and reflect, time to be with our families, time to engage in new hobbies or interests. Even for those with kids running around at home, the absence of travel, social commitments and otherwise darting around from one place to the next, has left us with more time on our hands that we have had before.
So my question to you is what are you doing with that time? Are you filling it morning until night with TV, work, cooking, reading, writing, exercising, chatting on Zoom, listening to podcasts….Are you dashing from one thing to the next, hoping to make the very most of the precious time you have now because who knows how long it will last? This is all great stuff, don’t get me wrong, and I have had many-a-day like this. But in between those things I’ve also had periods of just sitting, watching the birds peck at my grass, listening to nothing but the wind, meditating, or just eating my lunch in silence.
It’s bliss, and I think it’s what I needed to reconnect with the benefits of slowing down, just being with myself and appreciating the smaller things in life. Whereas before I viewed silence as boring, empty and uncomfortable, I can now see it as a genuine opportunity to explore my own mind. It helps me to dissolve stress and worry and gain a new perspective on things. It allows my mind to wonder and imagine and helps me to come up with new ideas that I would never have thought of otherwise. It helps my brain to process the day’s activities and to digest and compartmentalise all the different things going on. It closes some of the files that are open in my mind. It helps my body too, brings my heart rate back to resting and relaxes my muscles which even when typing on a laptop, I am tensing.
So, whether you are spending your days working, home-schooling, or just pottering around doing things you enjoy, I can fully advocate the power of silence, stillness and stopping everything else. It’s taken time and I am still far from an expert, but I’ve learned to experience silence as full and peaceful, and to use it to open up my horizons. I now at least recognise that my life becomes much richer when I give time to doing nothing – literally nothing.
Give it a go. Let yourself be bored, frustrated and wonder why you’re doing it. But beyond that is something special and very worthwhile 😊