“I’m too busy.” Sound familiar? It seems everyone I talk to these days is feverish, busy stuffing their lives with things to do, saying yes, yes to every next challenge, to every next opportunity. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? And the subliminal messaging. One that makes you feel guilty and anxious for having some free time. I imagine most of us have fallen into the ‘guilty thoughts’ well. I’m reminded of the conversations in my mother’s group. Like a cult of the busy, I failed the first test. I was not busy. It led me to question my worth as a productive citizen and my purpose. Suddenly, being a parent was not enough—ambition buried deep at the bottom of the dirty wash basket. I am the least ambitious person you’ll meet. I spent long, indulgent days with my daughter. Stalked by sleep deprivation, we cruised in the slow lane.
Busyness is a virtue.
Busyness is alluring. The ‘cult of the busy’ drew me in, and I happily filled my days. Until I found myself with no time to think, and my days filled with stress. No room for ‘silence.’ There is almost a pride in not having time for oneself. I walked away from my long-standing career as a family violence specialist worker. I was burnt out from long hours, inadequate support, and frustrated in the justice system response. The current ‘busyness’ mania is not inevitable. We have a choice. But I wonder, do we fall into a cycle of busyness to hedge against a sense of emptiness?
I think there is no single reason we hold onto ‘busyness.’ Distractions and interruptions have become the norm. But what if you find yourself dreaming of silence?
Find your seat. My favourite seat is crossed-legged on the couch. What is yours? Is it on a chair, cross-legged on a cushion, or in bed? Pick anywhere you’ll be comfortable in for at least five minutes. How to begin, the beginning is just to sit.
Take a deep breath in, slow exhale, making space between your shoulders and your ears. Take another deep breath to anchor into silence for the next five minutes. Alternatively, begin with walking in silence or find a patch of grass, sit and watch the clouds sail above you. As long as it is an intentional silence, you will feel the benefits. My husband surfs, and for him, surfing not only clears his mind but it alters his thinking. Surfing is his form of silence.
Just let go.
But remember, there is no perfect place. If you seek perfection, you risk being too precious and setting yourself up for failure. We live in a world where noise is a part of everyday living, and silence is a modern-day test. As you seek your moment of silence, life will continue to go on in the background. I did tai-chi and meditation with a friend in her living room; our kids played in the next room, buzzing around us. Challenging, yes, but we persisted and accepted the sounds without judgement.
Sometimes I am twitchy for no apparent reason.
Of course, it is no easy task to sustain a period of silence, and every day is different. It took practice to sit in silence, to be comfortable for thirty minutes. My journey into silence has been an interrupted one. When I was sixteen, I had a persistent headache. I went from doctor to doctor; I had a scan, but no one could fix it. People kept telling me to meditate, to do yoga, it’s good for you. I relented and took a yoga class in the neighbourhood centre. At the end of the session, she did a guided meditation, but I concentrated so hard on being silent I gave myself a headache.
I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with yoga and meditation. For more than fifteen years, I’ve dabbled around the edges. From Vinyasa to Hatha, Yin to Bikram. Sometimes I cried, trying to twist my body into various positions. I have despaired at another plank, down-dog, pigeon pose. Instead, I’ve stared out the window. And felt embarrassed, feeling like the only one in the class the instructor adjusts. My feet never seem to be where they need to be.
About five years ago, I stumbled upon a yoga teacher, we immediately connected. She was genuine, fallible, and brave. She was on a journey of learning and invited those with courage along for the ride. We have since parted, but the knowledge she shared has been invaluable for my practice of silence.
Silence is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself. And you don’t need to be proficient in yoga nor meditation to experience the benefits. Silence has restorative effects. Consider what I’m about to say; I think you may relate. I am currently studying and have experienced an unwelcomed state of mental exhaustion. Sometimes, wondering if I can stand to write another word in an essay. But what if I gave myself periods of silence? Little intervals of silence in between the busyness of deadlines. Silence to daydream, meditate. Silence to imagine new possibilities and to reflect. The space we give to silence allows our brains cells to regenerate and create room for heightened awareness.
Please go on, try it now. Find a seat and just sit. Set a ten-minute timer, take a couple of deep breaths, and then resume normal breathing. If extraneous thoughts drift into your mind, acknowledge them with a gentle nod, then push them aside. How do you feel? It takes practice, but the best part is that a clearer mind often comes from sitting in silence and can last all day.
Consider two minutes of silence. It can increase blood circulation. Two minutes of silence decreases blood pressure releasing tension. Two minutes of silence reduces blood cortisol levels and adrenaline. Silence allows our brains to take a breath and return to a space of clarity. When we don’t have clarity, we can find it challenging to concentrate. We can get stuck. All of which can lead to feeling anxious.
The kind of anxiety that aimlessly drifts,
filling legs, arms, and stomachs.
Anxiety that has a mind of its own.
Anxiety that creates small tremors.
Anxiety that steals your breath. Take five. Find your seat, take a deep breath in count two, three, four, and out two, three, four, five. Silence is the oxygen we need to keep breathing. And ironic but true, these everyday moments of silence are essential to maintain the busyness of our lives. All writers, thinkers, and other creatives let us rejoice in silence and in that silence to see the bigger picture and make those unexpected connections. Daydream, watch clouds float by, do nothing without fear of judgement or criticism. Just sit.
Photo taken by Jo Curtain
Wonderful, Jo. I am inspired to … just sit!
Thank you Victoria. So pleased you feel inspired 🌼🌿♥️
A superb article Jo .. very informative and intriguing readable. .. and yes I have learnt over the course of my life’s journey that personal moments of silence are indeed golden 😊🌏
Thank you for the feedback Ivor it is much appreciated. And yes moments of silence are indeed golden. 🌞🌺❤️