Twenty years ago, when I turned fifty, I took a sabbatical, allowing my soul’s landscape to lay fallow. As an introvert who already appreciated the power of silence, I opted to spend 30 days in a Benedictine monastery where silence was the norm. The monastery experience helped me discover the healing energy of silence, a lesson that has never left me. Although my profession requires extroversion, as a true introvert, I get my energy from being alone. Before and after a day’s work I need quiet time to absorb and cleanse all the activity. Although silence is potent anytime of the year, especially outside in nature, winter is a particularly good time to feast on the sounds of silence. Quality quiet time should be a part of everyone’s holiday season, but it is especially helpful for people in the active stages of loss.
Silence slows a frenetic pace. The annual bustle between Thanksgiving and The New Year can leave even the most extroverted person fatigued. With so much to think about, copious things to get done and plenty of added responsibilities, it can be tricky to fit in quiet time. Even with our recently developed “pandemic schedules”, the never-ending “to do list” quickly eats up any prospect for quiet time. Yet time and again people report that once they take time to meditate, or sit quietly by a fire, the renewal it bestows, leaves them yearning for more. Attentively listening to your mind, body, and emotions, you can usually sense the “slow it down” advice you give yourself when you need it. Pay attention and seek solace in silence.
Sufficient silence quiets the mind. One of the pitfalls of grief is a mind that runs in constant motion, re-hashing could have beens, should haves, or relentlessly visualizing a picture of the way things were. Though initially, the quiet may exacerbate this cycle, when silence is practiced repeatedly one can discover great peace. A plethora of YouTube meditations are available to begin the practice of slowing down the mind. Guided meditations result in refreshed, renewed minds that think more creatively and efficiently. A little silence goes a long way.
Silence activates innate wisdom. Silence leads us gently to the center of our heart where innate wisdom resides. Generally, noise drowns out instinctive perception and intuitive knowing. Inner wisdom is an effective healer because it automatically attunes to our needs, strengths, and weaknesses. In her book, The Millionth Circle, Jean Shinoda Bolen, quotes Angeles Arrien who beautifully captures this inner sanctum: “In the sweet territory of silence we touch the mystery. It is the place of reflection and contemplation, and it’s the place where we can connect with the deep knowing, to the deep wisdom way.” Your heart holds a wellspring of reserve, do not be afraid to look inward.
Silence quells the emotions. Silence has a calming effect on how we feel. Whether it is gratitude, hope, fear, anxiety, anger, loneliness, or even joy, silence soothes, balances, and reassures us. Silence has ample space for our feelings, holding us in a timeless chamber, supporting emotive breathing, inhaling and exhaling, until emotional equilibrium is restored.
Whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey, whatever may be your state of mind or heart, give yourself the gift of silence this holiday.
There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden, or even your bathtub.
— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross