My life had become so busy with the demands of being a mother, wife, employee, business owner and so many other hats that I find myself wearing—some at the same time. I have never been much of a proponent of being superwoman but at times, our lives become hectic as a result of the challenges and opportunities presented.
There are so many choices and yet, so little time in the day. Balance is something we demand of others. We want our children to have balance in their home and school lives. We demand our girlfriends take time to get away and yet, the same grace we extend to others for self care can often become a distant reality in our world.
I am a research junkie and in my fascination with nuns, convents, and monasteries, I decided to find a place and spend an entire weekend away from my phones, technology, family and friends to experience the sound of silence. Within my city was an amazing refuge, a monastery tucked away in the midst of urban life on acres of land. The gated community was away from the rest of the world and yet, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of city life. It was the perfect analogy of my life. With all of the movement around me, I craved to have the time for something special and set apart from my routine. My phone was locked in the car and with limited access to the outside world, I wanted to become centered once again and discover the small quiet voice in my innermost being to direct, guide and offer love.
Initially, it was perceived in my mind as a chance to rest as well as to hear and entertain my own thoughts. I realized how I allowed the very tools of technology which were designed to make life simplier actually serve as a distraction from the time I needed to reconnect to myself and my needs more often. I would talk briefly with the friars during the meals and even during those times, I spent my time alone in the cafeteria eating and thinking. I would go back to my room to write, to think, to pray. Isolated by myself, my every move was alone and in silence. There were times I wanted to go home or check an email. I started to notice that the distractions in my life had me bound and I needed something different in order to be my best. There were lessons to be learned in the quiet and I wanted to be a student of this invisible but ever present teacher that is often pushed aside and ignored.
Here are a few of the revelations I received from my time alone:
There is so much to learn when we are silent.
Silence is an opportunity for self reflection. My quiet time gave me a gift of stepping back from implementing and now I had a chance to be in the present. I was given the gift to explore my past, examine my present and evaluate my future possibilities. I was able to revisit those occurences I saw as chaos and confusion to realize the teachable moments in each situation. Silence can serve as a balm for a weary spirit that needs to be still and listen.
In the silence, we listen to the stories we tell about ourselves.
In the quiet, we begin to replay the tapes that are in our heads that reveal the value judgements we have about our lives. These stories tell us if we think we are enough, if we are bad, or if we are damaged goods. Our identity is embedded in our narratives. The stories we share are always evolving . The stories I heard about myself helped me to see that so many of the challenges I am facing are a direct result of my inability to listen to what I’ve been thinking. I kept placing band-aids over them, hoping the scrapes of life would heal on their own. Those scars had impacted my thinking and the way I saw myself. I realized that in changing my thinking, I could begin to make changes in the situations that appeared difficult at first glance. I began to understand that those challenges were not big scary monsters as I thought but by re-adjusting the sound in my life, I was able to see that my monsters were not so big and definitely not so scary. Journaling was a critical piece for me. I was able to write about my pain and pleasure as well as embrace my possibilities. I had so many a-ha moments in writing and it was an extremely therapeutic process.
The silence allows us to lead better in our personal and professional lives.
Leadership is more than a title. As women, we lead in so many capacities whether in our families, schools, communities or companies. In order to be an effective leader, we must make the time to take care for ourselves. We can not give to others what we do not have. I often think of the analogy of being on airplane in a crisis and putting on your mask first. We can not help others if we are out of breath. I needed this quiet time to address my own needs so that I could come back refreshed and rejuventated to lead and serve as those opportunities arise on my path.
Expect to do something with the lessons when leaving the silence.
Spending nearly 40 hours in silence wasn’t something that one can dismiss easily. There is a level of responsibility that we have to ourselves to make sure that this is not a one time experience that we forget and return to our old ways of thinking. Self-care and reflection have to become a more consistent part of our regimes. We owe that to ourselves and to those around us. In re-reading my journal entries, I have made a commitment to myself. In viewing my pain, I now know the importance of being forgiving and gentle with myself. In examining my pleasure, I need to recognize the passions in my life and find more opportunities to embrace those experiences and learn from what each bring into my space.
Moments of silence create opportunities for self love and to connect better to others.
In the moments of silence, I experienced hope and optimism. I remembered my resilence. I was given the chance to bathe in self discovery once again and understand that despite the mistakes I’ve made along the way, there has been a beautiful diamond in the rough that needs continued cultivation. As I saw the beauty of my journey in the quiet, I could then begin to see the beauty that exists in the experiences of others. It can be hard to listen and appreciate the stories of others when we can not hear above our own noise. I can connect deeper when I free up the space to be available more to myself and ultimately, to others. My irritation with the bad drivers that cut me off in traffic became a distant roar because I began to focus on the source of my frustration which sometimes was much deeper than an inconsiderate driver. In that quiet time, I started dealing with the issues under the surface in my life. It allowed me to extend an olive branch to myself and realize that the same grace and patience I desire, I must be willing to give to others to have the peace I deserve. So often the chaos we see in the world is a direct reflection of the chaos that might be in our spirits. Quiet can be cleansing and open our space to endless possibilities in our lives and in the lives of those around us. If we are clogged up, we can not receive all of the good available to us because of the space the noise takes up.
I look forward to taking other women through the journey of silence and continuing on my path of growth and development. There was a time when it was so difficult to hear even the sounds of nature and the birds. Something about the silence makes you more sensitive to the beauty we miss daily. I am glad to be back around those I love. I am even more excited to be reconnected to me and the fullness of who I am because of the discernment I received in the silence.