Just Be…Quietly

Fritz

I’ve noticed lately that I am spending more and more time in silence.  Not complete silence (there may be the sound of tapping on a keyboard, a snoring Schnauzer, or footsteps) but free of added noise.  I never used to be able to stand that; I felt like I needed the constant stimulation of sound, either TV or music, at all times.  Maybe it’s my advancing age, but I’m getting in touch with my inner…me!

First thing in the morning I walk Fritz, our dog.  In the past it rather irritated me and I found myself frustrated at his dilly dallying.  Why does he need to sniff and then water every tree, shrub, or stick on the ground?  I still don’t have an answer, other than, “Because he can”.  But what has changed is my attitude about our ritual.  What once was a source of exasperation has now become a time of inspiration.  Some of my best ideas have come to me during these little journeys, not to mention termination of unfortunate bouts with writer’s block.  I’m pretty certain that if I had been tuned into something streaming in my ear, my mind would not have had the chance to take in my surroundings and be free to wander.  Yes, I’m right brained, it wanders…a lot!  For this I am truly thankful.

In our electronic-heavy culture today, many people do not take that time to unplug and just quietly contemplate.  In fact, if you saw someone sitting with no electronics on/in front of them, you may wonder if something was wrong with them!  But would you imagine they were just taking the time to think?  I have even gotten used to running without headphones most days.  That time of solitude is for me to think; about something, about nothing, just to listen to the sound of my footsteps.  It is the perfect mental balance to my physical action, the yin to the yang if you will.

Rollo May, an American existential psychologist, said, “In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”  This is the person who has to talk all the time or keeps the TV/music on because they can’t stand quiet.  Here are some ways to unplug and free your mind:

  • Have a dedicated time every day for at least a few minutes of quiet.
  • Vary your quiet time activities—sit, walk/run, even cooking or a hand craft that requires no deep concentration will work.
  • Get the whole house involved.  This is a great way to teach children independent thinking and problem solving.  Make it clear that they don’t have to sleep during this time, just do something quietly with no TV, music, or computer involvement.
  • If you still don’t really know what to do, sit in your most comfortable chair or lie in your bed.  Close your eyes and listen to the sound of your breath for one minute.  Your mind will wander!

It doesn’t matter if you have no desire to be “creative”.  Giving your brain a chance to enjoy downtime leads to better thinking and decision-making.  It will also improve your interactions with others.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Fritz.  Our walks are much less stressful now.

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