Learning from the Quiet

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about a topic we’ve talked about in the past, but isn’t one that anyone really talks about a lot, unless you’re a parent with really noisy kids. Yes, that topic is being quiet. It’s one we have trouble with in general because we don’t live in a quiet world. Whether you’re talking about the noise of our modern conveniences like refrigerators and air conditioners, or you’re talking about the noise nature makes even in the dead of night, we’re surrounded by a noisy world. Which means it can be really hard to find quiet.

Don’t get me wrong, I love communication and I love hearing all the sounds of life all around us. But sometimes the noise becomes too much of a distraction and we can lose the gift that is the quiet. So this week I’ve been working on increasing the amounts of quiet in my life, turning off the radio or TV, working in a quiet space instead of busy locations, and generally turning down the volume on life around me.

I’ll be honest that it’s hard when it’s quiet, more quiet than usual, or almost completely quiet it’s almost distracting too, especially if you’re not used to it. And it forces you to think and be alone with your thoughts, which can be very distracting or disturbing. But it also gives you the chance to be very focused on one or only a couple of things, and admittedly sometimes that can lead to some really clear thinking and productive happenings.

I think the thing that the quiet has taught me the most over the last week has to do with paying attention to life. The times of quiet force you to pay attention, to focus, to be present, and that’s something that all the noise around us doesn’t always allow. What have you missed out on the last weeks, months, or years since you had a regular quiet practice, if you ever had one? Try spending just 10 minutes each day being quiet while doing normal activities, or try something like yoga or meditation if you really want to work on your focus and experience the quiet.

What will the quiet teach you?

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A Moment of Silence

Yesterday in the US was Memorial Day, the day that we stop and remember the men and women who have died for our country. In cemeteries around the country, in churches, and in countless other locations a moment of silence was shared as people stopped to remember those who are no longer with us. It’s not easy to be silent for many of us, for some of us it’s as hard to be silent as it is to think about the person or people we’ve lost. Part of that I think is because we’ve forgotten how amazing silence can be, and also because we may be scared to tap into what’s possible in the silence.

If you’ve ever spent time with a newborn baby you’ll know the magic of silence. There’s absolutely nothing like watching a new baby sleep. There’s a level of peace present that the majority of us can’t attain even when we sleep as adults. If you’re someone who regularly meditates, you too know the power of silence, there’s a level of consciousness, of being that you can only tap into when you’re able to be still and silent.

And yet we resist. We resist letting that moment of silence stretch out in our lives. We resume conversation as soon as possible. We turn on the TV or radio for background noise. We go to cafes to work. We keep scanning through posts on social media even when we’ve got other important things to do. The noise isn’t ruining our lives, but I believe our lives could be richer if we’d just take some time for quiet.

So today I encourage you to work on a quiet practice. Take just a few minutes each day to be quiet, whether it’s in the car, with your morning beverage, while you watch the sunset, during your daily walk, while you do yoga or start a more traditional meditation practice. Starting with just a little quiet time each day will give you the ability to have longer quiet times when you need them, as well as give you the time and space for your brain and heart to work through things, for you to get to know yourself on a deeper level, and to just experience peace in your life.

A Little Time for Quiet

When was the last time you were really quiet? Maybe you had the opportunity this winter if the power went out where you are and everything stopped for a few hours or days. We’re so used to the world that we live in with the quiet hum of refrigerators and other appliances working in the background that even when we think it’s quiet, for instance when the kids leave the house and we turn off the TV, it’s really not. But when everything shuts off, or you venture deep into the woods on a snowy day, it’s truly quiet.

As the season of Lent finishes up and we head into the days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, whether you’re religious or not, it’s a good reminder and opportunity to make time for quiet reflection. What’s the power of quiet reflection and why would we want to do it? Well, quiet reflection is a time for not only processing what’s been going on in your life and considering your goals and accomplishments, but also about finding peace, healing and connecting with yourself.

I know that the quiet scares some of us, it can be a little overwhelming to feel so isolated, especially in this world that we live in where we’re almost constantly around others and talking with other whether in person or virtually. So it may take a little time and effort to get to the point that you’re comfortable with the world around you being quiet and it just being you and your thoughts all alone. But I think it’s important because we don’t spend enough time on reflection, let alone quiet reflection by ourselves. I don’t think most of us take the time to really connect with ourselves and check in on things before just charging forward. There’s nothing wrong with being decisive or taking action (both are important), but I think we miss out on an opportunity to build our confidence in ourselves and to learn deep and amazing things about ourselves when we only do the action side of things and not the quiet reflection.

So this week I would encourage you to make time for quiet time, just you, maybe a note pad and pen, and your thoughts. If you work on making it a regular habit I think you’ll find that you’re more relaxed, more prepared and more at peace with life. What will you learn in the quiet?

Free to Just Be

Today I want to encourage you to stop and just be. Stop signing your kids up for every program under the sun, stop trying to get so much done each day that you’re completely exhausted by the time you get home and have zero energy for your kids or partner, stop wandering aimlessly in your life, stop rushing period. You, your kids and your partner all need downtime more than they need another commitment, regardless of whether you or they are an introvert or extrovert.

I get that there are important things in your life that need to be done to live or things you’ve already committed to that need to be followed through on, but there comes a time when you really just have to put your foot down and say that you’ve had enough. Hopefully you’ll feel encouraged to do that before you work yourself into an early grave or isolate you from all the people you love, or burn yourself out so badly that you have to take significant time off to even function again.

I believe it’s important to fill your life with things you love and to make time for the responsibilities you need to see to as a significant other, parent, sibling, son/daughter, worker and community member. It’s good to be involved and do things and enjoy the life you have and people you love. But it’s also important to take time to relax, to reflect, to be thankful and to just be. We aren’t designed to go 24/7, we’re meant to sleep and meditate and eat to enjoy and listen.

There’s no reason to feel guilty for taking a day off (including a mental health day), or admitting that you’re struggling, or taking a break to refocus. If you’re able to take that break with your kids or partner, great. Sometimes those moments when you’re just being quiet together can be the best part of your day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Will you make time for down time this week?

Personal Remembering

Monday in the USA we celebrated Memorial Day. It’s one of the days each year that we take time to stop and reflect on the men and women who have fought for our country, who still fight for our country and who have lost their lives fighting for our country. It was a pretty cloudy weekend where I live so there was a bit less revelry than I remember from past years, however, I didn’t do any of whatever there might have been because I spent the weekend feeling not so great and doing lots of resting.

But as I was reflecting on Memorial Day and how I spent my weekend, I was reminded that as much as Memorial Day is about being together and honoring the men and women who fought, those memories can also be very personal. Sometimes you don’t want to be with others, even those you love, you need to be alone to take the time to personally reflect and remember. Maybe it’s because your loved ones don’t feel the same way you do about that person or they’re not the sentimental type or they don’t have the need at this point in their life to reflect that you do. It’s not wrong to not take a lot of time to reflect deeply about someone you’ve lost every year, but if you don’t take any time for personal reflection on those you’ve lost and those who have touched your life ever, I think you’re missing out.

I don’t believe we should try to live our lives alone, but I also don’t think every second of our lives needs to be spent with others. There are things that we should do on our own without feedback or intrusion or direction from others. Some things are done both personally and publicly (like mourning), but some of us are willing to write off the need to do the personal side of things because we’ve done the public. Often we make that decision because we don’t want to feel those deep, sometimes painful, emotions that would be brought up if we spent time on our own. But if you want to experience the most life has to offer you need to take the time to get up close and personal with those sometimes uncomfortable feelings and activities.

This week I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the people who matter and have mattered in your life as well as what you want from your life in the future. We’re almost half way through another year, what will you make of the next 7 months?

Making Time for Quiet Time

Life has been a little crazy these past few weeks and my work schedule has definitly taken some hits.  How do you deal with it when life gets crazy?  You know, when your kids get sick the morning of a big presentation, or they have this big project you knew nothing about that’s due at the end of the week, or when your partner suddenly has a trip to take for work and leaves you with things you were going to do together.  Basically: life.  And heaven forbid if you have something going on in your life too on top of what goes on with your family like being sick or extended family stuff, right?!

I was reading an article the other day about how a family vacation almost never is a real “vacation” where people relax and rejuvenate, it’s only when couples go alone or people go alone that it is a real vacation.  I think family vacations are very important and some of my best memories of growing up are of family vacations.  But I also remember the times when we were dropped off at my grandparents for a week and my parents had some alone time, even if they were just at home without us.  We all enjoyed those times too.

A big part of life is learning to navigate the lumps and bumps, the relationships, the interpersonal differences, the questions of kids and all the unpredictables and unknowns we can’t anticipate.  If you can’t learn how to deal with it or manage it, it will manage you and sooner or later you’ll look around and wonder where your life has gotten to without you.  With school winding down and summer coming up soon you’re probably thinking about time off, whether you have kids or not.  Take time to be alone this summer.  Set up time each day that you have a few minutes alone, and if possible get your kids to do the same.  Maybe they’re too old for naps but that doesn’t mean that can’t read for 30 minutes or an hour or do a puzzle or color or another quiet activity, and give you some time alone.  Don’t feel bad or like a failure for needing alone time and making time to be alone, it’s healthy to be with people as well as to have time for yourself.

Earth Day Details

Today the world celebrates Earth Day.  It’s a time for us to reflect on the world we live in and often take for granted.  As we reflect on family and relationships today it’s important to note that we are all in a relationship with the earth.  It’s not one that we all think about or take time to appreciate, but without the air that surrounds us and the ground that supports us we’d be nothing. Today as we think about Earth Day I thought we’d take a page from our kids and look at the little things.

Kids are really good at noticing the little things, like the stains on your shirt, the things you drop, and the words you say.  Kids are also pros at collecting stuff.  Whether we’re talking about toys bought at the store, old standbys like cardboard boxes, or the countless stones, acorns and flowers (aka weeds) they find in their explorations and your travels, they love to pick it up.  When was the last time you took a good look at what they picked up?  Have you took a close look at some of the things they’ve found lately?  Have you picked up a few of your own lately?

I know, that’s a kid thing! But at the same time it’s not. It’s all about noticing what’s around you, appreciating the beauty of the earth and how the world was created and what makes up the world.  Kids have great imaginations because they don’t see the limits and restrictions we’ve put on the world and still see the little things that make up the big things.  This Earth Day spend some time up close and personal with nature.  See the little bugs as they go about their lives, see the spring flowers exploding, see the birds searching for worms, pick up a couple of rocks, and appreciate the little things that make up our big planet.

“To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.”   William Blake

The Freedom in Quiet

Today is the last day of this month, and the end of the second to last month of 2015. How are you feeling about it? Are you too busy thinking about the holidays to think about the fact that another year is just about over? It’s interesting that the year ends on such a busy note, I mean it’s one thing to end the year with a celebration of the year, it’s another thing to cram Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa into the last 6 weeks of the year. Sure it’s great for the business world to have all these sales but who’s to say that if the holidays weren’t spread throughout the year that sales would be more evenly distributed? Regardless, that’s not what we’re talking about today. Today our discussion is on this month’s topic, being quiet, and understanding the freedom that comes from being quiet.

Having quiet time gives you the opportunity to reflect on your past, consider where your life is heading, remember the good memories, make plans, listen, relax and de-stress, and help you get centered and refocused. Without all that quiet time your life is like a bullet train running without a conductor (and no self-driving technology either): eventually you will run off the tracks.

So if you are looking for more victories, more success, more freedom and more fulfillment, there are 3 things you need to do: start making time in your life on a regular basis for quiet reflection, take more intentional actions and establish relationships with people who can and will support you (and you can support) and won’t tear you down or discourage you from having goals and dreams. When you do those things your life and goals will be clearer, you’ll have more victories and you’ll enjoy life more, 3 things that we all want this holiday season and next year.

“If you can’t get quiet enough to hear yourself, your life is too loud.”  Terri Guillemets

Are Your First Impressions Right?

This month we’ve been talking about the choice of quiet. I’m a fan of taking time for quiet because it gives me an escape from being overwhelmed all the time by the thoughts I think and the (noisy) things going on around me. I’m not made to be surrounded by sound and thoughts all the time, I need a break every so often, we all do.

One of the reasons being quiet is beneficial is because it gives us a chance to think beyond our initial reaction or impression. Everywhere you go and in everything you do you’re making snap judgments based on previously established knowledge, observation or experience within the first few seconds of interacting with that thing, person, or place. Many times you’re right about at least a good portion of the judgment. However usually there is a lot more to the story than you can get in the first few seconds. For example, if you were to walk into the dining room during Thanksgiving dinner you would think that the house is noisy, but walk just a little farther onto another floor or even into another room and your perception of the house being noisy is revealed as not totally accurate; it’s really just the dining room that is noisy.

Snap judgments are important because they can keep us safe and protected from dangers we might run into or bad choices we might make. But they don’t ever tell the whole story. The only way to get the whole story is to take the time to be quiet and think things through, ask questions and take time to learn more before making a final judgment. I’m not suggesting to ignore your first impressions, just to not assume that it’s the only and full truth, because that will almost never be the case. There’s always more to the story than you think.

“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

A Preference for Peace

In this month as we talk about quiet, one of the things that is usually associated with quiet is peace (“I’d like a little peace and quiet” being the well-known phrase). If you have kids quiet may be a distant memory for you, and peace may be as well. But as we’ve already established that they’re connected, it’s through that connection that we’ll be able to have a breakthrough in getting peace and quiet in our families, and our relationships as well.

If you want quiet and peace with your kids you need to establish quiet times. When your kids aren’t napping any more you should still have time set aside each day for reading or coloring time or another quiet activity that’s able to be done independently for the most part. To set a good example you should have a quiet activity to do as well, maybe folding laundry, checking/paying bills or even reading yourself. Setting aside just 30 minutes each day for everyone teaches your kids that there is value in being quiet, and it’s not just BS you’re feeding them to make them stop being crazy.

As for relationships, one of the challenges many of us face is finding peace in them. We’re busy trying to get our way and be right or even be together that peace goes by the wayside all too often even though it’s something that we all claim to really want. If you really want peace you have to create it. Instead of fighting over things by default, choose to make compromises. Instead of forcing your partner to do something they don’t enjoy step up and do it yourself without them asking or begging. Instead of putting things off big discussions, have them before things really turn into issues and do create fights. Instead of always thinking of yourself first, try to put your partner’s needs above your own at least once each day. When you’re both putting forth effort to make peace in your relationship it will be a lot easier to keep the relationship healthy and happy, and the same holds true for your family.

“My wife and I don’t compete. We know each other’s preferences, and we work to provide those for each other. One will take over when the other is faced with something he or she dislikes. That’s what friends do.” Matthew McConaughey