Monthly Archives: January 2010

Back Amidst the Noise

Too much noise. Too much stuff.

That’s what I concluded after two days of silence.

It took a good four hours to still my chattering mind, but after a full day of silent meditation, reading, knitting, thinking, praying, I had a very interesting night, of not tossing and turning, but just gentle contemplation and quiet resting. A storm raged outside, so I was snug in my little lakeside cabin, feeling grateful and calm. Sometime, apparently, I fell asleep, because when I awoke, it was morning, and I felt calm and refreshed.

I took a long walk in the weird storm aftermath, and watched the turbulent surf. Then I came back to town, met Al at his jobsite and broke my silence with an “I love you.” Then we went to lunch and talked about how to bring more silence to our lives, and how to simplify so we have room for more quiet, more calm.

The more stuff we have, the harder we have to work to maintain it, insure it, worry about it… you get the idea. The less stuff, the more peace. Enough should be enough.  

I read three slim books. Inviting Silence, Stillness, and Listening Below the Noise. All were excellent. Inviting Silence reminded me that it’s difficult to hear the voice of God amidst the din; Stillness talked of enough being plenty, and too much is what makes us noisy; and Listening Below the Noise taught me that nothing is so important that it can’t be addressed the following day. In nine years, the author never missed a day of silence, which she takes on the first and third Monday of every month. Everything else can wait.

I have plenty of solitude in my life; I’ve long known how my soul needs solitude. But silence is new to me. No radio, no music, no talking… it was refreshing, and made time for good reflection. I had many things to ponder.  With a clear, calm mind, many of those decisions that have to be made are not really decisions at all, as the solutions are obvious.

Bottom line: I will make room for silence in my life on a daily basis. I don’t need to go on a retreat for it, I just need to make it a priority. And I will, because the gifts therein are worthwhile.

If you want to do a silent retreat, I suggest: 1. Have an intention. 2. Make a plan. 3. Bring activities. 4. Be open to whatever happens.

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Filed under peace, Possibilities, Spirituality, Stress

Preparing for Silence

Sunday morning, I will wake up silent, and will not speak until Monday night. This is in response to a class assignment, to engage in a spiritual practice I’ve never done before, and then write a publishable article about the experience.

Well, I’ve never been silent for more than a few moments at a time in my entire life, but it strangely appeals.

I’ll take books, writing materials and my knitting. I’ll take long walks, meditate, write, read, knit, engage in centering prayer, and just hang out with myself, wearing a sign that says “I’m Silent Today” just in case. No television, radio or internet. I’m going to be in a beautiful place, and this is going to be an interesting experience.

Do I have an intention for this experience? Not yet, but I’ll be working on that between now and then. I’m looking forward to it with mixed emotions of eager anticipation and a little fear of being disappointed in the experience. I believe the most spiritual practice of all is being gentle with others, so to be alone and silent is a little antithetical to my way of thinking, but I’m very willing to be wrong about that.

So stay tuned. I’ll be back on Monday night, and will write about my experience on Tuesday. If any of you have suggestions for me before I shut down the internet Saturday night, please post them.

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Filed under Discipline, Spirituality

Dealing with Anxiety

Fear of the unknown is the worst. Well, it’s really the only fear there is. If we knew what was around the next corner, unless it was life-threatening, there wouldn’t be anything to fear. But this not-knowing…

It seems like our lives are always in the hands of someone else: a boss, a partner, an application, a teacher, a diagnosis, the weather. Wondering how they (or it) will affect our lives while we stand by helplessly watching and worrying, is the stuff of anxiety. That’s silly, isn’t it? To worry about things over which we have no control?

In fact, I have to continually remind myself that I have little control over anything. My attitude is the only thing I really have control over, and I’m not entirely in charge of that, either.

Right now I’m worrying. I have anxiety. It’s not life or death, but it’s important to me, and it’s out of my hands, and I am absolutely powerless to do anything but fret.

What a waste of time and energy this is. 

I’m going to go to my quiet place and spend some time in contemplation. I’ll try to reason my way out of this. 1. What’s the worst that could happen? 2. Is the person into whose hands this has been given competent to handle it? 3. How important is this, really, in the greater scheme of things?

The answers to all of those questions are obvious and make my worrying seem silly, yet they did not entirely alleviate my stress. 

Perhaps it is merely a rhythm. Perhaps we need time to be stressed out so we appreciate those times when life seems to be running smoothly. It’s the yin and the yang. The darkness and the light. There is no joy without a little grief. There is no spring without the winter.

Maybe I need to contemplate this instead of dwelling on my uncertainty. Maybe I need to appreciate this time of doubt, knowing that it is temporary, and there will be more confidence and a good lesson learned on the other side.

I’ll work on it, because today, I can do little else.

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Filed under disappointment, dreams, goals, Stress

A New Year, A New Goal

I’m a pretty average American. I grew up in the Midwest with all the insults and prejudices that everybody else did. Fewer than some, more than others. Pretty average.

Those of you who have followed this blog, know that as a result of an inspirational conversation with my friend Terry Barrett, I’ve adopted her ritual of naming each year as it dawns. 2008 was the year of Hesed, or lovingkindness. 2009 was the year of Tao. All year long, I contemplate those concepts and try to work them into my life.

2010 is my year of Namaste. That isn’t really the correct word, as “Namaste” is more of a greeting, or a salute, but my intention is to see the God that indwells every single person I meet. I no longer want to feel threatened or afraid of those who are different from me, who dress differently, are a different color, who speak a different language or who have a religion with which I’m unfamiliar. I want to get directly to the heart of the matter and see who people are at their core.

Most of us are like scared little children, stepping into a new day every day, a scary day, doing things we’ve never done before. Even if 99% of our day is the same as the day before, there’s still an element of the unknown. And that little itch of fear makes us act out in anger, resentment, impatience, unkindness… you get my drift.

I want to see past all that smokescreen in myself and everyone else this year. I want to encourage the god within me to commune with the god within you. I want our angels to go out to lunch together and share a couple of laughs at our expense. I want to be a better person every day, every day, every day.

And so I name the new year Namaste: I honor the God within you, and I welcome the gifts 2010 will surely bring.

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Filed under Beauty, connections, Goodness, peace, Personalities, Possibilities, relationships, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, Truth, Writing, years