Silence. Quiet. Calm. Those words are a distant memory to most busy adults I know, whose days are a blur of work meetings, waiting in the school pick-up lane, chores at home and, if they’re lucky, a few precious, uninterrupted moments spent with friends and loved ones. Many of us report not finding a space of quiet in our daily lives for more than a second or two before we are pulled back to what we believe (or are told) are our pressing obligations and innate responsibilities as parents, workers, partners.
A FORCED HIATUS
I didn’t realize how long I’d lived without quiet until a recent surprise hospital stay. Now, I wouldn’t recommend a bowel obstruction as a regularly-scheduled interruption to your daily life, but four days on my back, hooked up to a nasal gastric tube, IV pump and painkillers, was a forced hiatus from my constantly growing list of “to-do’s.” What I discovered, once the initial pain of my condition had been eased by my treatment, was that I was prevented from “doing” much of anything, other than laying in the hospital bed, flipping through television channels and trying to get myself and my IV pole to and from the bathroom without becoming entangled in plastic tubing. It wasn’t long before the usual chatter in my head started to fade to a faint background murmur. Sure, I could have spent my mental energy worrying about my condition, catastrophizing about possible treatment options or scrolling through work tasks that were being left undone. But, despite my usual anxious personality, I found that my mind fell into a kind of silence I don’t ever recall experiencing. Maube it was knowing that I couldn’t accomplish any life tasks from a hospital room, or that I knew my spouse and child were banking the home fires just fine (with the help of neighborhood take out, of course.) Maybe it was the “permission” of the hospital staff to get as much rest as possible and focus on my SELF only, rather than all my usual life tasks. Whatever the reason, I found myself, for the first time in my adult life, with NOTHING TO THINK ABOUT. Foreign, indeed.
I’ve long been a devotee of meditation, and I did spend a bit of time meditating on mantras of wellness and renewal. But I kept finding myself drawn to observing the silent space within me. What a unique experience to feel my brain nearly “empty” of chatter, judgement, list-making and dialogues that make up my internal world. Like viewing a serene landscape, residing in the quiet of my mind brought me a sense of calm and hopefulness that I hadn’t known I’d been missing. In that space of emptiness, I sensed an expansiveness and lightness that brought with it peace and gratitude. I told my best friend that the sensation was like hearing the wind whistle through my body. Two weeks post-hospitalization, my mind has reverted to its “normal” pace and the lists and self-talk and internal noise are just a few decibels below deafening. Clearly, I have work to do to get back to that restorative space of quiet. But knowing that it’s possible to dial down my brain, to live for a few moments in a void from all noise and clatter, is a revelation I will strive to replicate as often as I can. I know now that peace and ease — and wisdom — dwell there.