The Healing Power of Silence
My mentor told me a story last summer that rocked my world. Over the last few years we have all read about and been advised to the benefits that come from creating a meditation practice. I make an effort to carve out small blocks of time in my routine to practice…most days. I quiet most of the chatter, ignore the itch on my neck, and truly focus on my breathing.
The bold move my mentor shared with me was her retreat into the forest for a three day silence cleanse by herself. She was guided into the wilderness with a tent, sleeping bag, journal and water and left by her retreat guide to be picked up three days later. Her instructions were to stay within sight of her tent (so she wouldn’t wander off and get lost!) and to just Be.
As she tells the story, she had been a bit nervous about her inability to meditate. She is a high performing badass in her work-a-day world and quieting her mind has never been her strong suit. What her guide told her had a huge impact on her. And also on me. And I hope for you too.
She said, “Don’t worry about meditating on the mountain. After a while the mountain will meditate You!”
I was profoundly moved by this story because it made me think about how seldom I experience long stretches of true silence. Sure, I set aside time every day for my meditation “practice”, and am a huge advocate for the daily routine. But upon hearing this story I wondered, when was the last time that I really claimed the space to make sure that there wasn’t any information or stimulation coming into my brain?
It just so happened that a week after hearing this story I was set to travel to San Diego for an event. I had an option to fly, which would take me two flights and about 5 hours of time, or I could drive there in about 7.5 hours. With my new found inspiration to find time and space to quiet my mind, I chose to drive with the discipline to be in complete silence – no music, no audiobooks (my normal routine) no phone, just silence.
The first two hours were terribly upsetting as my monkey brain jumped from one thought to the next. I worried that I’d never be able to settle into a “positive” experience. But the magic happened somewhere around Gila Bend where my mind ran out of things to fret about and it just Was. The calm washed over me and I began to smile for no particular reason. Just as I had heard would happen; the road began to meditate me. For the next five hours I felt blissed out and carefree and went to my event with a glow that I hadn’t felt in years. The long trip went by in a flash and I couldn’t wait for the return drive where I could experience more, delicious silence.
In fact, I could swear that the return drive only took me about an hour and a half total. Time deferred to my happiness and the long drive that previously seemed like a chore became a powerful means of infusing my life with joy and ease that lasted a long while after my trip.
This week, I had another opportunity to travel to California, and once again, decided to drive through the desert in silence. As I write this from my hotel in Costa Mesa, I wonder why it took me so long to carve out another silent adventure. I feel as if I’ve pushed the great, big, energetic reset button. I feel happy and alive, while I’ve left my worries and bothers on the roadside of Interstate 40.
When was the last time you unplugged and didn’t have any information purposefully directed at you? When was the last time you practiced true, isolating silence? What would it take for you to be able to “justify” the time to do exactly that? And who would you need to justify it to? Your team? Your family? Yourself?
I’d like to invite you to give it a try. Press your own reset button and see what magic comes from emptying your brain and letting go for a longer while. See if, in silence, the world meditates you.