Embrace Silence & Solitude
Date: Jan 14, 2008
~Rain of Light~
Embrace Silence And Solitude
© by Susan Smith Jones, MS, PhD
Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. I love to be alone. I never found a companion so companionable as solitude.
For most of you, the holidays meant long days of endless errands and constant noise, must-attend social engagements, out-of-control spending and overindulging in foods we know we should not eat. Trapped in this whirlwind of excess and activity, it's no wonder that most people reach January 1st feeling exhausted, overweight, depressed and stressed. But now it's time to start taking better care of yourself – make a fresh start and choose your very best health and life. For the next few months, please consider me your personal holistic lifestyle coach; I will guide you on simple ways you can look and feel great – throughout 2008. Together, let's make 2008 your best year ever!
No one disputes that regular exercise and a wholesome diet are essential ingredients for being radiantly healthy and living a balanced, vibrant life. But I believe there are other equally important elements that are often overlooked. In the pursuit of our physical goals such as a strong, fit, well-toned, healthy body, we often neglect the importance of nurturing the emotional and spiritual sides of our being from which true happiness, peace and fulfillment emanate. To nurture your emotional and spiritual side, two processes are tops on my list – solitude and silence, the topics of this article and two of my most favorite subjects ever, guaranteed to start your new year off on a positive note.
It was Paramahansa Yogananda who said: "We should not allow noise and sensory activities to tear down the ladder of our inner attention, because we are listening for the footsteps of God to come into our body temple." I love that thought. Noise certainly seems to be part of our everyday lives – from the alarm clock in the morning to the traffic outside and the never-ending sounds of voices, radio and television. Our bodies and minds appear to acclimate to these outside intrusions. Or do they?
Two decades ago, the Committee on Environmental Quality of the Federal Council for Science and Technology found that "growing numbers of researchers fear the dangerous and hazardous effects of intense noise on human health are seriously underestimated." Similarly, the late Vice President Nelson Rockefeller noted that when people are fully aware of the damage that noise can inflict on man, "peace and quiet will surely rank along with clean skies and pure waters as top priorities for our generation."
More recent studies, writes Michael D. Seidman, MD, in his terrific book, Save Your Hearing Now, suggest that we pay a price for adapting to noise: higher blood pressure, heart rate and adrenaline secretion; heightened aggression; impaired resistance to disease; and a sense of helplessness. Studies indicate that when we can control noise, its effects are much less damaging.
SOUNDS OF SILENCE
While I haven't been able to find any studies on the effects of quiet in repairing the stress of noise, I know intuitively that most of us love quiet and need it desperately. We are so used to noise in our lives that silence can sometimes feel awkward and unsettling. On vacation, for instance, when quiet prevails, we may have trouble sleeping. But choosing times of silence can enrich the quality of our lives tremendously. If you find yourself overworked, stressed-out, irritated or tense, rather than heading for a coffee or snack break, maybe all you need is a silence break.
Everyone at some time has experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed by life. Everyone, too, has felt the need to escape, to find a quiet, secluded place to experience the peace of spirit and to be alone with quiet thoughts. Creating times of silence in your life takes commitment and discipline. Most of the time, periods of silence must be scheduled into your day's activities or you'll never have any.
Maybe you can carve out times of silence while at home where you can be without radio, television, telephones or voices. If you live in a home with other family members, the best quiet time for you may be early in the morning before the others arise. In that silence, you can become more aware, more sensitive to your surroundings and more in touch with the wholeness of life.
From quiet time or silence, you recognize the importance of solitude. Silence and solitude go hand in hand. In silence and solitude, you reconnect with your self. Solitude helps to clear your channels, fosters peace and brings spiritual lucidity. When you retreat from the outside world to go within, you can be at the very center of your being and reacquaint yourself with your spiritual nature – the essence of your being and all life.
Outside noise tends to drown out the inner life – the music of the soul. Only in silence and solitude can we go within and nurture our spiritual lives. Within each of us there is a silence waiting to be embraced. It's the harbor of the heart. When you rediscover that harbor, your life will never be the same. In the Bible we read, "There is silence in heaven" (Revelations 8:1) and "For God alone my soul waits in silence" (Psalms 62:1).
Mystics, saints and spiritual leaders have advocated periods of silence and solitude for spiritual growth. Saint John of the Cross wrote that only in silence can the soul hear the divine. Jesus prayed much by himself and spent long hours in silent communion with God. Gandhi devoted every Monday to a day of silence. In silence, he was better able to meditate and pray, to seek within himself the solutions to all of the problems and responsibilities that he carried. When I read about Gandhi's practice of silence and solitude several years ago, I was so inspired and moved that I decided to adopt a similar discipline in my life. So now one day each week, for two consecutive days once a month and for several days in a row at each change of season, I spend time in solitude, silence, prayer and fasting.
"You long for peace. You think of peace as being goodwill towards each other, goodwill among the nations, the laying down of arms. But peace is far more than this; it can only be understood and realized within your heart. It lies beneath all the turmoil and noise and clamor of the world, beneath feeling, beneath thought. It is found in the deep, deep silence and stillness of the soul. It is spirit: it is God," writes White Eagle in one of my all-time favorite books, The Quiet Mind. Invite quiet and solitude into your life and find that place within you where peace and stillness reside.
How do you feel about being alone? Aloneness is quite different from loneliness. In the book Courage to Be, Paul Tillich expressed this idea beautifully when he wrote the following: "Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone."
Loneliness is something you do to yourself. Have you ever experienced feeling lonely even when you're with other people? We're so used to being with others and so unaccustomed to being by ourselves that we have, in a sense, become a people and not persons. We must reclaim ourselves and reconnect with our wholeness and the peace of solitude.
CHOOSE TO MAKE
SOLITUDE YOUR FRIEND
Everyone needs times of privacy and solitude. In my counseling, I always encourage couples to spend occasional time alone, not only daily, but also at regular intervals during the week, month and year. In this way, you regain your identity as individuals. You bring so much more to the marriage when you come from feeling whole, complete and strong. Solitude fosters these qualities.
With a little creativity, a marriage can accommodate solitude and privacy. I have witnessed all types of arrangements, including separate vacations, private rooms in the house, living separately during the week and coming together on weekends and having special times during the day in which each person is left alone.
I know several people who do everything possible to preclude being alone. Often this is because they have never tried it, they are afraid of loneliness or they simply are uncomfortable with themselves. They haven't yet discovered the peace of their own company. It's not scary to be by yourself; it's absolutely wonderful! Loneliness is not a state of being; it's a state of mind. You can choose to change your state of mind.
I realize that I live my life differently from most. I go to great lengths to secure my time of solitude and privacy. It's a great comfort to me to be by myself; it's like returning home to an old friend or lover after being away too long. Solitude is not a luxury; it is a right and a necessity.
Through the years, I have gone on several vision quests. A vision quest is a time of solitude during which you can take time for looking into your soul, finding a new direction or path or simply reconnecting with your Higher Self. On these occasions, I usually go to the mountains or the ocean for a time of prayer, meditation, fasting, reflection and aloneness. I spend much of my time outdoors, being open to the beauty and love all around me. In this peaceful, reflective time, the earth, the sky, the wind, the animals, the incredible beauty and the divine order of everything take on a new and personal meaning. I commune with the trees, the moon, the flowers and the animals. My vision quests always show me that the most profound lessons in life come to us through nature, solitude and silence.
It is my contention that all of the other good things we endeavor to provide for ourselves, including sound nutrition, daily exercise and material wealth, will be of reduced value unless we learn to live in harmony with ourselves, which means knowing ourselves and finding peace in our own company. This peace is a natural occurrence of spending time alone in silence. In spending time alone, we realize that we are never really alone and that we can live more fully by focusing on inner guidance rather than on externalities.
Embrace solitude. Walk in silence among the trees, in the mountains, by the ocean, with the sun and moon as your friends. Be by yourself and experience a whole new way of celebrating yourself and life. Feel the heartbeat of silence. Bathe in its light and love. Know within yourself that you are a child of God and in your silence is Heaven.
When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, and droop, sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign, is Solitude.
*Loving Thanks for this go to*