When we moved from the mountains to Vancouver Island, we were undecided as to which community we wanted to settle in. We rented a small cabin in the country smack-dab-in-the-middle of the two communities we were considering. Located on a beautiful river, the cabin was a secondary dwelling on an acreage. The female owner in the main house was also a newcomer newly transplanted from Vancouver, BC.
“I am so scared of the dark here”, she confessed one day. “I’m thinking about moving back to the city. There are no street lights here and it’s too damn quiet.”
“How can somewhere be too damn quiet?” I thought. This is what we loved about living in the cabin. It was incomprehensible to me that someone would be afraid of silence.
So, when I saw Danielle LaPorte’s Burning Question in my email this week asking, “What is your relationship with silence?” It got me thinking. I love silence. – I even crave silence.
When I used to work as a spa therapist, my preference was for my clients to not talk during their treatment. This wasn’t because I needed the silence, but because I knew that their experience would be enhanced by it. By creating a safe, relaxing environment, even these clients who were unaccustomed to silence, would allow themselves to be enveloped in it. The warm embrace of the moment rising up to meet their consciousness.
My sister and her husband had a remarkable experience on an evening interpretive hike in a national park. The interpreter guided the group down a hiking trail and then instructed the group to stop. She then asked everyone to find a comfortable place to sit along the trail in the dark. Once everyone was settled, she asked everyone to stop talking and turn off their flashlights.
Initially, the hikers fidgeted in the darkness and then they heard what they could not hear before: the rustling of leaves as a mouse looked for it’s dinner; the single hoot of an owl from far away punctuated by breaths of silence. They sat like this for awhile until they felt the peace within that comes from silence without.
What is it that makes us so frightened of silence? We feel compelled to fill in every space of our waking lives with noise and activity. Are we afraid that there will be nothing there if we stop? Are we afraid to meet ourselves in the silence?
I had another client for a Reiki treatment. I usually prefaced my treatment by telling clients that no two Reiki treatments were the same. This client was very curious about Reiki and wanted to know more, so I told her that some people saw colours during a treatment. At the end of the treatment, I left the room and returned with a glass of water for my client.
“How do you feel?” I asked.
“I have a horrible headache,” she said.
“A headache?” I replied.
“I kept trying to see the colours you mentioned. I tried so hard, that I think I gave myself a headache.”
I felt awful that my client did not experience a relaxing Reiki treatment and I never made the mistake again of telling someone about what they might experience. You see, silence is not an act of doing, it is an act of not doing. And the best part, is that it is easy, can be done anywhere and doesn’t cost you a cent. Just – stop – doing.
Take baby steps at first. Sit in a room by yourself and shut the door: your office, your bedroom even the bathroom will work. Just find a place where you will be undisturbed. Then sit down and close your eyes and breathe. That’s it.
It doesn’t have to be for very long. I promise once you experience silence, you will want more.