Why Be Silent?
As I stood up to share in front of the entire group, I heard one of the members say "I don't understand, why would anyone want to be silent for a whole day." Referring to my announcement about the upcoming Day of Silence Retreat at Satsang House on April 13th, he appeared absolutely baffled. Are you confused too?
Most of us have been conditioned to fill the silence with either mindless chatter, another half hour of meaningless Google searches or games on our phones, a quick perusal of our Facebook or Instagram accounts to see what everyone is up to or a trip to the fridge to rummage for something to eat when we aren't even hungry.
What about instead, we just got still? What if we just resisted the temptation, the desire and even the need to fill the empty space? What if we just settled into the silence instead of running away from it or trying to avoid it? Personally, I think most of us fill the empty space or silence with all of the "doing-ness" because we're desperately trying to connect to something or someone - anyone.
In my work as both a meditation instructor and a life coach, I come in contact with people every single day who seem to suffer from what I believe is an epidemic of loneliness. We think we'll feel better through posting on social media, responding quickly to that text; like somehow that will take the feeling of emptiness away. And yet...how often do you see the general public around you even saying "hello" to one another any more? We've even stopped looking up from our phones long enough to even notice someone just sat down next to us or that someone could use a hand. When was the last time you went out to dinner only to see a family of four in the booth next to you "out to dinner together" yet every one of them is on their cell phone?
Technology has not only accelerated the very pace of our lives but it's also made our lives noisier. Noise in and of itself is a sort of affront to our senses. But, we've become so habituated to the noise that we barely startle at the sound of someones car alarm blaring, we fail to even notice that even in a quiet suburban neighborhood, noise is ever present all around us. You can't go to a coffee shop, a shopping mall, into an elevator or even the spa without noise of some type being present. It's as if we have come to believe that silence is a void that has to somehow be filled at whatever the cost.
We no longer know how to be still. We no longer know how to be alone without being lonely. We seem to require constant and relentless input. We've become addicted to sensory overstimulation. This addiction comes at a tremendous cost, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. It leaves us exhausted, depleted, depressed. It distances us from intimacy (is your phone at your bedside?), and it severs our connections not just with those around us but more importantly, with our internal selves.
What if you decided to put your phone and all of your worries down for just ONE day this year? Does the thought of doing so make you uneasy? Are you like my friend who just can't understand what the point of doing so would be? Just try it on. Maybe just for one hour today, shut your phone off. Sit in the stillness. Allow yourself to hear your own thoughts coming and going, maybe even hear a bird sing in the distance or the wind move the leaves outside. Maybe start to touch your own soul.