One a scale of 1 to 10, how well can you handle silence? I’m only asking because I’m one of those people who can’t handle it well at all. If we were having a conversation and all of a sudden there was a peaceable lull, and we were having a sip of coffee or looking around at the sky, that would probably last me all of fifteen seconds. Before you knew it, I’d start bringing up the weather, or about birds – especially the cassowary, which I just learned can actually be quite terrible and has earned the notorious title of “world’s most dangerous bird.” I attended a Catholic university that had a convent just off campus (its Mother Superior used to serve at the school), and I attended a discernment retreat weekend there to decide if the religious life was an ideal one for me. Every evening at eight o’clock there was what was called The Great Silence until eight the following morning – during The Great Silence we were not supposed to talk at all, just spend time in quiet reflection. I made it about an hour before I found a copy of St. Francis’ biography and read it aloud, whispering into the quiet of my room just to myself, because I just needed there to be noise. Silence, it seemed to me, was just plain unattainable.
The thing is, though, I want to be a person who can sometimes be quiet. I want to be able to think about the answer to a question, or to plan ahead, or to give serious time to considering things before I do them, but it’s a skill that I really haven’t honed yet. And with my phone (which, like everyone’s, is pretty much a little computer), I have 24/7 access to not only physical noise (like podcasts and videos) but also visual noise, pictures and articles and posts just like this one.
It gets to be a lot, and to be honest, it’s a very hard habit to break. But luckily for me, the next few weeks can really be the ideal time to practice the art of silence a little bit more each day. The sun rises a bit later, it goes down much earlier, and the night stretches out and allows for that quiet time. I find that watching the snow fall can help, too.
It’s often said that children grow the most while they’re sleeping, and Mother Teresa once noted something similar. “See how nature grows,” she said. “Trees, flowers, grass – grow in silence. See the stars, the sun and the moon, how they move in silence.”
A lot of good things can be the fruit of a period of silence, or many small periods throughout the day. If it’s something you struggle with, I would suggest a break from social media to start. I always feel so much better when I step away from those kinds of things. Maybe try some reading, or maybe some old-fashioned letter writing. Journaling, just plain thinking, all of those count too.
I hope this little bit of silence adds some well-deserved peace to the end of a hectic year. Who knows? Maybe it’ll help make 2021 much better, too!
Until next time, be well!
About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.