Being present for every moment – doesn’t that sound lovely? Moments where we feel our true self resonate. Moments to connect purely with loved ones or experience mother nature at her finest. These moments are the priceless currency we bank into our “life well-lived” account. Yet it doesn’t take much for days to overflow with jobs, raising kids, and taking care of households and never find ourselves present for any of it. One of the most powerful tools I’ve found to become present is embracing silence.
Perhaps you’ve used practices like prayer or meditation to help create silent space in your life. It took me many years to learn to use these practices regularly and with intention. But silence had long since found me. God (Universe or whatever name you see fit) knows we need the space of silence to experience life fully. Silence finds us if we don’t find it first.
Sometimes silence finds us when a total bomb goes off in our life. Major disruption to the family, illness, and trauma can be loud and raucous events but often lead to a period of intense silence. My first intense experience with silence came after a serious car accident. I have never been so quiet in my life! There was commotion of people, doctor’s appointments, therapy, and world events (9/11 happened a few weeks after the accident), but I was internally silent. I was not thinking through the nuances of the accident. There was no mental processing of the changes my future held. I was just silent.
Many critical things happened in that silence – without me even recognizing it until much later – like complete forgiveness of the person who hit me and sheer gratitude for another day to breathe and be alive. Life threw me a huge curveball, but in that same experience gave me silence and space to recognize the important things in my life. It gave me the chance to see a new version of my life, a new and better version of myself.
Life doesn’t always throw us into disarray to find silence but does offer the usual transitions of growing to give us a (sometimes uncomfortable) nudge. Think back to the first few years after high school or college as we tiptoed into “real life”. Those aren’t always the most comfortable experiences. Moving to new places, changing social circles, and taking new jobs are awkward and uncertain, to say the least. In these experiences we find ourselves inherently quiet, often more out of circumstance than choice. That silence gives us the opportunity to take in what’s around us, process information, and create our new reality.
The same could be said for becoming parents. Even if we fall into parenting with great ease and joy, it is still a huge life shift and transition. The early part of parenting is so quiet – sleepless nights, constant feedings. Even when a baby is screaming at the top of its lungs, there is little space for mental chatter. So we meet another opportunity to recognize silence, create space to appreciate what is right in front of us, and embrace new love.
The last stop on our tour of silent spaces is the intentional one. The experience of silence when it is intentional is more intense and penetrating – transformative not just on our thoughts but on our being. The beauty I’ve experienced in practiced silence have been far reaching across every area of life. However, the most precious gift of practiced silence has been the presence to be here, right now, with my family.
The saying goes “the days are long but the years are short”. I found that phrase to be especially true while raising infants and toddlers. However, as my kids get older, my experience has changed. My experience now is that the days are too short. The opportunity to soak them up is right here. I’ve become like a sponge that never fills – just taking it all in. Practicing silence daily has allowed me to be present to them. Present to the way my kids speak. Awake enough to sense their moods and intentional enough to opt into a weird board game.
Practicing silence has allowed for transformation that in the way I think, how I experience life, and what I see for the future. Regardless of how we meet the silent spaces of life, the opportunity to embrace them and grow from them is a choice we can make. It isn’t an exercise in perfection, but it is an invitation to experience life from a more enriched and authentic space. Silence reveals our true nature and therefore our individual awesomeness.
The potential that exists inside the vacuum of silence is exceptional. And we will be exceptional when we step inside it. Then, we get to bring that refined self into a space of connection with our spouse and experience with our children. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving. It’s worth every single silent moment.
Ready to help quiet your mind? Here is one of my favorite calming breath practices.
Interested in beginning your own silence practice? Check out this beautiful book, Sacred Silence, by my teacher, Catherine Divine.
Another favorite: Just Breathe by Dan Brule.