“All the unhappiness of people, arises from one simple fact: that they cannot sit quietly in their chamber” – Pascal
My need for silence is almost up there with my need for Oxygen. Maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. Suffice it to say that my need for stillness has informed many of my decisions about places I visit and live and people I seek out.
I have all sorts of theories as to why I prefer silence. My introversion makes me prone to avoid noisy and busy parties and restaurants. My attention challenges necessitate stillness for maximum thinking efficiency. But above all, I just like stillness because it makes me slow down, feel alive, and pay attention.
We don’t have a television or radio in the house. We live on five acres in the country and cherish the solitude and connection with nature.
I have concluded over the years that I am not different from everyone else with my need for solitude. Extraverts need to find periods when they isolate from others and recharge their emotional and physical batteries. Busy executives need to close their office doors to minimize interruptions so they can engage in deep thought.
I am reading essayist, novelist, and travel writer, Pico Iyer’s book “The Art of Stillness”. In so doing I realize how difficult it is to find a place of quiet rest. Even as I write this article my two dogs a fighting over a dirty old bone that one of them just dug up in the garden. Give me patience!! That’s the real world however. Even monasteries can be places where interpersonal conflicts, daily interruptions, and internal dilemmas distract to some degree or another.
But here are some facts about our need for silence.
Fact #1 We are constantly bombarded by external stimuli like the phone and email that demand our immediate attention. Some people take a weekly Sabbath from them to reign in these disrupters of quiet.
Fact #2 Every time we are interrupted it takes at least 20 minutes before we return to our level of efficient thought. Furthermore, interruptions are the most stressful thing we encounter in our world no matter how important the issue or pleasant the person. This perspective is supported by the whole new field of Interruption Science.
Fact #3 Don’t run through or from life with your schedule so packed with activity that you have no time to face yourself in silence? Why? Because the true self is often experienced in those gaps we create for ourselves. Healing also comes from being awake.
Fact #4 No matter how you choreograph your life to embrace solitude it is important not to make interruptions a catastrophe. Tomorrow is another day.
Reflect on the profound words of Pico Iyer.
In an ago of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.
In an ago of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious that paying attention.
And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.