I recently finished Listening Below the Noise: The Transformative Power of Silence by Anne D LeClaire. Though I’m rather garrulous when with people, I actually spend a lot of time at home alone in silence and find I enjoy it. I also meditate somewhat regularly (though improvements could be made) so being alone with silence is not scary, nor foreign to me.
However, Anne LeClaire took it a step further. She gifted herself with two totally silent days per month for many years. That seems a bit daunting to me, especially as she routinized it – the second and fourth Monday. What if your cousin was coming to town and would only be there on the second Monday? What if you were a published author (she is) and your publisher wanted you to give a talk on a fourth Monday?
She had some of the same misgivings and plowed ahead anyway. The insights she garnered from the silence were interesting. Even more so, were the insights she garnered from the whole process of this committment – the fighting with self, the doubts, the criticisms or resentments of people in her life.
I’m realizing as I write this how much I rely on underlining important passages to help me remember all the things I loved about a book I’ve read – even one I read last week. Alas, this book was one borrowed from a friend so I have no such signposts.
What I do know is that I had a lot of “uh, huhs, I know that feeling” insights. And some “whoa! that sounds too hard!” and a little bit of curiosity – what would it be like to be still – truly still regularly.
My favorite part of the book was when she did a week long retreat at a cabin she and her husband own on Cape Cod. She spent a week without speaking – but also without paying attention to time, to any media. Eating when hungry, sleeping when tired, being in nature a lot. That reminded me very much of the good part of summers as a child and that part, arguably the most rigorous, also sounded the most magical.
I know that the lack of silence can be very jarring for me. I don’t watch TV at all. Mostly listen to music in the car. Only occasionally listen to the radio at home. When I go somewhere (oil change, doctor’s office, etc.) where a TV is on if I’m there alone I turn it off. And I don’t look or feel guilty when others come in befuddled -like, where’s the TV? Where’s the distraction.
When I meditate I always think “Why don’t I do this EVERY day?” – it’s delicious. But still, I don’t.
We live in a noisy world – silence is a gift. And having it for more than minutes – a full day, for instance – no doubt uncovers many treasures – and a few demons.
How about you? What does the thought of two full days of silence per month bring up for you? Do you spend any time in silence now? What’s that like for you? As always, I really want to know!