It was strange to see an ancient practice emerge as a fad. References of meditation can be dated as far back as 5,000 BCE yet most of us have not tried the practice until the launch of Headspace. Why?
I have no idea. It is impossible to point to any singular cause of our culture, but the concepts of peace and quiet and peace in quiet are not regularly taught throughout the mainstream.
I struggled with this when I was abroad. In Germany, there were several occasions where the silence made me anxious. I was eating with my older cousins and attempted to keep a conversation going during the main dish of dinner, they looked at each other and said, “You do not have to talk. Please, enjoy your food.” We ate in silence while my mind buzzed.
A breakthrough came after a long drinking binge with a friend in Augsburg. The next morning we convened at a coffee shop in the main square. I was used to rehashing the night before during a brunch meeting but after awhile, I noticed that no matter what I said my friend would smile at me curiously, laugh, and turn his head to look at the bustling city square.
Curious myself I did the same.
It was wonderful. My thoughts drifted away as my senses expanded. My mind, heavily influenced by last night’s Weißbier, let go of its thoughts and anxieties while acknowledging each and every movement. I could even feel the presence of my friend sitting beside me without having to take a look for confirmation. We sat there for hours.
It felt as if my brain had healed. It felt as if I had finally shut down my computer after 25 years. Is this what peace felt like?
Americans struggle with silence. That is not a well-kept secret. There is also a reason meditation was the newest fad. Silence is magical in its ability to provide peace. Our biggest obstacle is that we are not trained in the art of silence. Quiet does not bring peace to the average American; it brings chaos. Our minds have been trained to stay busy.
Here is a remedy for that. Sit in a space, alone, with some kind of activity going on. Just like the busy city square was my breakthrough, it allows your brain to use the activity around you as a crutch to ease into silence. Remember, we are untrained in silence so sitting with only yourself will prove to be difficult at first. Give yourself the gift of a space where you can expand your senses and focus on something other than the sounds of nothingness in a room. You wouldn’t attempt to do the splits before opening your hips so don’t force your brain into mental gymnastics.
The payoff is immense. Silence is a tool, and once mastered it will allow you to find peace in times of short supply. Do not force it. Do not schedule it. Find it within your own life. Find it within your morning coffee and noon sandwich. Turn off the afternoon podcast, silence your phone, and feel the rays of the sun while on a park bench. Allow your sessions to have no structured beginning or end. Merely let your mind dictate how long you need to rebalance.
Find your peace in quiet.