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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Silence and Being Alone

Many of us experience great uneasiness when confronted with a lack of the types of input that we are used to, and particularly the types of distracting input we use to keep ourselves so occupied that we don't or can't attend to the subtleties of simply being - because silence may force us to think, to feel, to touch deep parts of ourselves. Learning to be comfortable with silence means learning to be comfortable alone with yourself. It is one of the healthiest habits one can cultivate. The teachings of many world religions speak of the necessity of silence to hear the voice of God or the voice of the inner wisdom. In the silence of the mind, the heart speaks.

  • Watch yourself as you go through the course of a day, or several days.
  • When and for how long did you experience silence accidentally? Deliberately?
  • How did you feel about these occasions? What, if anything, did it do for you?
  • Would you like to cultivate a more loving relationship with silence? With yourself?
When real silence is dared, we can come very close to ourselves and to the deep center of the world. - James Carroll

A quieter external environment allows us to hear a level of sounds that are usually unobserved, like the wondrous sound of our own breathing or that of a loved one, the sound of a gentle breeze, the delicate sound of tea being poured into a waiting cup, the sounds of birds in the distant trees, the hum of insects. Try this: While outside, close your eyes and stand very still. Listen carefully. What is the most distant sound you can hear? How many different sounds can you hear?

As you move through the day, try to become aware of the sounds you make as you progress from one activity to another. Listen" to yourself brushing your teeth, drinking a glass of water, dressing yourself, or walking up stairs. There are hundreds of experiences you can use to develop awareness and sensitivity about yourself and your environment. Becoming aware of your own "noise" can be an invitation to step more lightly in many ways. Try it.

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