Sunday, June 10, 2012

I'm grateful for...Silence

Only in solitude do we find ourselves; and in finding ourselves, we find in ourselves all our brothers in solitude.

Miguel de Unamuno

Washington Coast, Fall 2011

I find that the older I get the more I crave silence. It's an interesting concept, especially for someone who, on the Myers-Briggs, is an "E" (extrovert). But I'm discovering that time alone is what rejuvenates me these days.

I think that much of this comes from the stage of life I'm in. When my kids were younger, so much of my time was spent going to their activities, volunteering in their schools, working, and just the overall "busy-ness" that comes when you are in your thirties and forties, creating a life for you and your family. Luckily for me (and perhaps because I am an "E"), I enjoyed it. I liked meeting people who were also fully engaged in the childrearing years and working towards making our community a better place. I met many, many friends over the years and am grateful we walked on the same paths.

But now that my kids are (more are less) out of the house, I have for the first time in 23 plus years, more time to myself.  One thing I've observed is that a little time spent in silence is essential to starting my day. No longer do I leap out of bed, turn on NPR and meet the day full steam ahead. Instead, I get up early and do a 15-minute Qi Gong routine, followed by a daily reading from "An Almanac From the Soul." I don't even put the radio on until I get into the car an hour and a half later. I have found that by not leaping into the thick of things right away, whether it's the news or my own busy activities, I'm better able to center my day and move forward more mindfully.

For instance, on the days I commute to Seattle on the ferry, I head upstairs to one of the quiet rooms. A few years ago I think I would have eagerly sought out people I know down in the main galley and enjoyed the 35-minute ride talking to others. But on these early mornings, there's something very peaceful about sitting in silence with others looking out at Puget Sound or reading my book or my laptop. 

I don't think I'm unusual in this regard. I imagine that many others are also finding silence rejuvenating in their "middle age." And while this is a departure from the way I used to start my day,  I can't imagine going back. This slower, more mindful start to my day suits my 52-year-old self.

This doesn't mean I don't get a lot from my interactions with others. I do (remember I'm an "E!"). In fact, since Matthew died, I know more than anything the incredible importance that family, friends and surrounding community play in my life. It really just comes down to balance and the value of slowing down a bit.

I'd be curious to hear if others are experiencing a change in the way you start your day. Or perhaps you have found that you prefer being around people more than you used to. I think when you hit your 50's, you suddenly have more time to reflect on what it is that nourishes your soul, and more ability to act upon it. The demands on your time are simply less than they used to be. 

So to conclude this rumination, here's the June 7th reading from  Almanac of the Soul which initially prompted these thoughts:

True experience always comes about in withdrawal ‘from the crowd.’ The original, true and proper attitude of the mind is—as Heraclites says—that of ‘listening to the truth of things,’ the avoidance of the pressure of falsehoods, half-measures, mediocrity and gossip. Our journey in the territory of being should be made in silence, with wondering, wide-open eyes. The fullness of truth and reality is revealed  only to those who attain to a silence which covers every aspect of their beings, or who, in other words, make their basic attitude toward the whole of being one of delicate and reserved courtesy…For anyone who wishes to hear what is true and real, every voice must for once, be still. Silence, however, is not merely the absence of speech. It is not something negative; it is ‘something’ in itself. It is a depth, a fullness, a peaceful flow of hidden life. Everything true and great grows in silence. Without silence we fall short of reality and cannot plumb the depths of being."

God is With Us by Ladislaus Boros


  1. Hi Robin,
    Thanks for this great post! I feel exactly the same way. These last few years especially, I've been feeling more and more introverted even though I am also an "E" according to the Myers-Briggs.

    I really love writing by myself in a quiet room for hours at a time, stretching to music, meditating, and taking walks without talking. Thanks for helping me feel that I am not alone.

    Like you wrote, it's all a balance. If I only did solitary activities, I would feel too alone. But having a good amount of time to myself every day helps me to get more joy out of the time I spend with my family and friends. Thank you again for this post and all your wonderful stories and lessons learned that you've shared through this blog!

  2. I loved this posting, maybe because I have been noticing the same thing.

    I haven't taken Myers-Briggs (or if I did, have forgotten the outcome), but I know I'm a 4 on the Enneagram (and one who causes others to wonder if I might be an 8, but that's another story). I need more quiet time at home since Katie died. I don't know if it's the weight of grief, the shock, the depth of the loss and change, the complete loss of privacy in our months of hospital experiences, or the fishbowl aspect of returning to a small community after my daughter died, but I needed to retreat during the past 5 years, and I have. Having said that, I'm a bit more ready to "come out" now, but it's not consistent, and I have to say I've socialized with mixed results. If I'm out in public, speaking or hosting a gathering, it takes a few days at home to recover.

    If I encounter difficulties, I don't let go of them as easily as I did in the past few years. At first, everything was compared to missing Katie, which is so huge that nothing else seemed to be worth being bothered about. If it wasn't cancer or the death of my daughter, how big could it be? But now that the grief is not the first and foremost thing each and every day, I find myself losing that perspective. It's a good and a bad thing.

    I read this quote today: "There is a Zen saying, 'If you want to find the path, set fire to your own life.' " In some ways, I think my life went up in flames (not of our own choosing), and now I am trying to find the path. It's not easy to find where I fit with people, so staying in solitude is less tiring, yet I do crave to be of service, to share with others - to be in community. You are one of the people with whom I feel great peace and comfort, Robin, and I'm so thankful that we are friends!