As I open the curtains and patio doors, the sunlight floods into the apartment. The only noise is the sound of the birds chatting away and me going about my morning routine. I find the quiet comforting and my morning rituals meditative. I am not ready to let in noise, and as I sit down to savour my fresh coffee, I am happy to spend time alone with my thoughts about the day ahead.
But fast forward to the end of the day and I don’t find silence as comforting. I am not one of those people who falls asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. And despite good sleep hygiene – gratitude journal and relaxation – at some point there is a gap between this and sleep, and the silence haunts me. Or rather my thoughts overwhelm me, as I mull over the day, stressing about this and that. I often wish that as I turn off the light my thoughts could be turned off too.
Danielle LaPorte asks in this week’s ‘burning’ question: what is your relationship to silence? And as I reflect on the question, I realise I only like it when my thoughts are the kind of thoughts I want to be having. I don’t like being ‘alone’ with myself when I am upset, stressed, unhappy, hurt or emotional. I then want distraction, something to take the pain away – which can often involve noise: chatting, television, films (even my choice of relaxation is guided meditation rather than silent meditation).
Or I seek solace in reading or writing. But where do they fit in? They are silent activities (well, they are too me) but it’s still noise for the brain isn’t it? It’s still distraction. Or is writing different? Can I claim that when I am writing I am being creative and that the quiet, which I always write in, is fuelling my creativity? (I would like it if we could say this, makes me sound all arty and spiritual…)
I admirably read one reply to Danielle’s post: ‘I like being with silence. It’s where all the answers are.’ Really? Lucky you. Answers don’t seem to be in abundance for me at the moment (maybe I’m asking the wrong questions!). And I was even more impressed by my blogging friend Sandi Amorim, who in response to this question shares her love for silent retreats. What brave ladies, not afraid to be alone with themselves.
I recognise though, that I am in a strange place to be thinking about silence, and perhaps it wasn’t the week for me to answer this question: I’m still having a rough ride with my health and I know this is distorting my view; I’m definitely more stressed than normal and my thoughts, if possible, are a little crazier. Also because I am doing so much resting, I have too much time to think about everything, which means life’s upsets (however small and unimportant) are getting way too much attention. Right now I definitely need distraction from my thoughts, maybe even a holiday from them, but certainly not time alone with them!
But in my normal life, my life is quieter – in pace and volume – to a lot of people’s and I appreciate that I have the freedom to create quiet time in my life; I know this is a privilege that not everyone has. I can imagine that if I had two small children running round, or back-to-back meetings from the moment I got up, or demands on my time 24/7, I would be desperate to connect with silence.
So silence, I do love you – sometimes. (Although I am not sure I will ever love you enough for a four-day silent retreat.) But other times, not so much. Oh, just like a normal relationship then…
What is your relationship to silence?