The Purpose of Silence & Solitude

“Silence and solitude – the soul’s best friends” – Mother Theresa

In all spiritual traditions, there is an important practice of being in solitude. It is a chance to commune with the divine and restore the soul.

Our modern and busy lives, plus our minds that love to be distracted by the latest meme, video, tv show or song, have made the gift of silence something foreign to us and perhaps even something to be feared.

With this pandemic, where we are forced to be inside, either on our own or with family members, we are having to face this dreaded state known as boredom or feeling stir crazy.

It reminds me of when I did a 10-day Vipassana Silent Meditation retreat. We had to be in silent meditation all day long, without reading material, journals or human interaction for 10 days straight. The only reprieve was sharing meals in groups, though we still had to keep to the code of silence. The first 3 days I was restless, angsty, feeling lonely and aching. I really wondered if I would keep my sanity. As I continued practicing in self-discipline, I learned how to settle into what felt uncomfortable. I knew that the state would pass, I would be okay and there was a reason to all of this. And there was. I was having the deepest sleeps and most profound dreams. I had fascinating spiritual experiences. I really heard the sounds of nature, as if for the first time. I stopped being so self-centred and opened up energetically and mindfully to something far more beautiful — life itself.

By Day 4, 5 & 6, I was settling in so well. I absolutely loved the quiet and the calm that was coming in. I couldn’t imagine going back to every day life of superficial conversations and relating in the delusions of the world. Day 10 came far too quickly in my opinion.

At that retreat, I got a taste of what it was like to be a monk or a nun and discovered the much neglected part of myself– the depth of inner peace. As we are facing this social call to isolate, I am reminded of those days of silence and “nothingness”.

I believe that much of this experience is part of our global awakening, calling us to stop and listen to ourselves and life itself so we can open up to the preciousness of the many things we take for granted — whether it is in the modern or natural world. Many of us have this divine opportunity to be with something unfamiliar and find the sacred. We get a chance to really examine how dysfunctional our lives, society and the economy are structured. We won’t really know what is ahead for ourselves and our lives. But that’s the point. We are called to be present and responsive to what is and what life wants of us right now. As we take a big time out to contemplate what really matters to us individually and collectively, we have a chance to make real change after this ends.

Try, if you can, to sit and be without distraction at least for 30 minutes or more a day. It will feel uncomfortable, maybe even anxiety-ridden. But this too shall pass and you will come through it as a changed person — more of what your soul has been yearning for you to be. Trust me, the world, the earth and you will thank you for it.

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