Silence, Stillness, & Solitude
Updated: Jan 5, 2019
It’s the first of the year and I am sitting in my dad’s old recliner, eating mint-oreo ice cream and writing at 8:30 in the evening. The recliner was a gift to us after my parents’ showing agent suggested they remove it from their home before they listed it to be sold. Despite the wear and tear, it suits us just dandy. As it has mostly become my husband’s chair, it is an extra gift to be nestled into it this evening. What is even more remarkable is that the baby is asleep… and so is my husband. I sit in relative silence, outside of the hum of my daughter’s sound machine coming through her baby monitor and my eleven-year-old German Shepherd licking his arm to my side.
Silence and stillness and solitude. These are the gifts of winter and darkness that I was reminded of at a recent workshop. These are the gifts that I have been preaching to my clients and co-workers about in recent weeks, as a reframe of this cold, dreary season. These are the gifts I have been craving and yet, have found in short supply.
Yet, here I am, on the dawn of 2019, soaking them in. I could not be more ecstatic.
It’s not as if I don’t likewise appreciate the noise, movement, and companionship that is the majority of my life these days. In truth, I spent ten full minutes simply soaking in the noise of my eight-month-old daughter’s laughter and breathing and attempts to communicate just earlier this evening. I took it as a mindfulness of sound practice and simply tried to receive the resonance of her musings, to my awe and gratitude. And, outside of the movement entailed in getting everything accomplished in my day to day, I am increasingly more grateful for my ability to move for the sake of moving. In the past few months I have revisited rock climbing as an entertaining way to engage in healthy and purposeful movement. And, I love it. I love feeling strong in a way I haven’t felt in years. I get energized by watching myself learn to navigate harder and harder routes and to feel the success of completing them. Just as Galway Kinnell reminds us, “sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness”; I feel this movement has retaught me the loveliness of being embodied. Regarding companionship, anyone who knows me knows that I love companionship.. connection.. people. I have a high social instinct and crave relationships of all sorts.
Noise, movement, and companionship.
All of these things are good and beautiful and necessary. And, interestingly enough, none of these things require much, if any, effort or intentionality to incorporate into my life. They just happen.. living , at least living my life in my world, is essentially loud, and busy, and full of interactions with other beings. As such, I rarely need to long for such things.
I do indeed long for their opposites, however. I have to work much harder to create space and time for silence, stillness, and solitude. And when I do so, I find a welcome respite. In slowing down and coming back to center I tend to begin to notice the ways I have become disconnected from myself and my vision. I remember what it feels like to be a companion to myself and to check-in with how I am actually doing.
In this space I can truly pause and consider, “how do I feel about where my life is at right now?”, “how am I doing as a mom? a chaplain? a wife? a person?”, “what do I want more of? less of?”, “what am I orienting to?”. In this space I can learn how to reacquaint myself with the needs and desires of my body, mind, and spirit.
I often start individual Spiritual Care sessions by asking my clients to go inward and ask themselves, “What within you is wanting time and attention today? What is wanting to be voiced or validated? Wondered about or explored”. I am just now realizing how rarely I ask myself those same questions.. how rarely I make the time to sit with myself long enough to listen.
Some people say that how you start the New Year foretells how you will spend it. If that means that 2019 for me is going to entail more silence, stillness, and solitude… and perhaps more mint-oreo ice cream enjoyed in comfy chairs, then so be it. I accept. And, I suppose, that is exactly what 2019 will bring if I live intentionally and create the space for it.
That right there is perhaps the best and hardest gift today, that I in fact have the power to decide what sort of year I want it to be.
And so it is with you. Thank goodness!
From my heart to yours, I wish an intentional New Year to you each!