When was the last time you experienced complete silence?
As a new mother, I’ve noticed silence — or lack thereof — more frequently. Even before my daughter was born, silence was hard to find living in New York City, where there isn’t a horn that lacks for honking. Now it’s almost impossible.
Silence used to be more prevalent in our lives. We had time to contemplate, to find solitude or tranquility, or just to escape. These days, you have to plan your escape — set an “out of office” email message, let your family know so they don’t panic when you don’t respond to a text, cancel appointments on your calendar, turn notification off on your phone, rent a car, buy a plane ticket — the thought of it can be exhausting in and of itself.
And that’s the whole problem. We shouldn’t need to escape our daily lives to find peace and quiet. Self care shouldn’t feel like a burden.
These days, I’ve made it a point to prioritize silence and stillness in my life. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. As strange as it may sound, the energy I receive from these moments feels like electricity. I am focused, creative, and excited to get back into the mix.
How can we find silence when something is always calling for our attention? When we are bombarded by messages or alerts on our phones, in a 24 hour news cycle with a work schedule that feels almost as long? In the summer of 2016, I fully embraced the Power of Pause. I went completely off the grid for six weeks, during which time I participated in a 12 day silent retreat, followed by a dance intensive. While it’s not always realistic to go off the grid, I’ve continued to embrace the Power of Pause and all that I learned during that time. Here are a few strategies I continue to incorporate to find silence:
Noise canceling headphones
Noise canceling headphones or earbuds will quite literally help us find silence. This can be a good first step as it can be easier be slow down and search for stillness when we completely cancel the constant noise that surrounds us.
Wearing our headphones and continuing to refresh our email and scroll through our Twitter feed isn’t going to help. Use the headphones as your first step, but then work to cancel out all the noise by putting your phone away and focusing your attention on what you are experiencing in a given moment.
Public libraries and museums
It’s probably been awhile since you visited a public library. These former staples of society are overlooked in a world run by digital technology, but they still have something to offer. In this case, silence.
It’s actually quite incredible to see a building full of people moving in relative silence. Many of them have some impressive technological resources to complement their printed counterparts. These days, they are a totally undervalued space to work. You’ll find everything you need, without any of the noise.
Plus, it’s pretty hard to get a phone signal in some of these old buildings. Win-win.
Turn the radio off
You might not listen to the radio anymore, but you almost certainly listen to something while you are traveling. Whether it’s a podcast, Spotify, or the person on the other end of your phone call, it almost feels wasteful to spend time traveling without doing something else. It’s either that, or our journey is so unbearable that we have to distract ourselves from it.
But in doing so, we also distract ourselves from ourselves. We are not setting intentions or contemplating our emotional state; we are hiding from it behind lyrics, headlines, or somebody else’s drama.
It’s truly amazing what we will observe about ourselves, the people around us, and the places we’ll see on the way to our destination, if we give ourselves the opportunity to do so.
Download different apps
Goodbye Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Instead of using apps that take your attention away from yourself, try apps that focus your attention on your needs. There are a number of apps that will help guide you in meditation or visualization.
Substituting twenty minutes on social media for twenty minutes of meditation has done wonders for my stability. Instead of getting my mind racing by reading the latest sensational headline, I focus on breathing. I focus on my intentions. I focus on what I need from the day.
Too often, we give the things that distract us from our goals far too much power. It’s time to take your attention back.
This might seem a little out there, but it’s become one of my favorite methods to use in a crowded place. Let’s say you’re in an airport, walking between gates. Count your steps as you walk, stopping at each gate. When you get there, take a deep breath in, and exhale slowly before moving to the next gate. As you’re walking, focus on your feet hitting the ground. Focus on the way your body feels. Concentrate on yourself instead of the madness surrounding you.
Of course, that also requires you to get to the airport a bit earlier than you might do otherwise (Something I still fail at, and even more so as a working mom). And that gets back to the original point: we are too distracted by all the noise to do what is best for ourselves, like giving ourselves extra time to prepare for travel or meetings or family dinners.
It’s time to bring the focus back to ourselves. It’s an ongoing process that seems to get harder every day. We are constantly tempted to react to what’s being thrown at us. Emails and text messages will try to tell us what to focus on and where we should be spending our energy. It’s more important than ever to search for silence. There are always opportunities to find stillness in our lives. We must become comfortable with and find appreciation for the silence. We need to open ourselves up to the Power of Pause.