The Sounds of Silence

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Simon and Garfunkel got it right when they wrote the timeless song, Sounds of Silence, over fifty years ago. Many remakes hit the charts, and then in 2015, the song was given an upgrade by heavy metal band, Disturbed. Not that the original needed any tweaking, but the incredible feeling and power behind David Draiman’s voice brings the song to a whole new level. The first version creeps quietly into my heart while the second, reverberates throughout my body. I listen to both, often.

Like our music that often permeates our homes and our cars, the sounds of silence are anything but silent. As I sit this morning, bringing forth this blog post, I feel the power within and beyond the silence. For many of us, it is rare that we sit in silence. It has been awhile for me as well, yet today, the sounds within and around me, feel like music. Like an old friend, I am welcomed back with open arms.

My home, usually quiet on a Saturday at seven am, feels no different today.  It has been years since babies and toddlers woke us much to early, with their wide eyes and intense hunger. Like a reward for all those sleepless nights, older children sleep late, especially on a Saturday. Two years ago, we emptied one of our bedrooms upstairs as my oldest went to college. In the space she left, we could feel the silence. The first to fly the nest left our house feeling different, a bit awkward and lonely. Yesterday, my second daughter left for college, and along with far too many clothes, she took her laughter, loud music and friends dropping by at all hours of the night. Our newfound silence, again unnerving, but now, more familiar.

Yet, it was not just the empty bedrooms. I had no choice this morning but to sit within the silence. When things call to me, as I follow that inner voice which feels anything but silent, I listen. Sit and do nothing, it said. While I do miss my daughters, the silence they left behind in this moment feels welcoming. A chance to reunite with myself.

I have heard all the arguments why people do not like the silence:  I have no time. It makes me uncomfortable. My mind always wanders. I just can’t sit there and do nothing. I know them well because I have used all of them.

Maybe it is because we don’t ever visit with silence that we fear the worst, and then we think we are proven right when we finally sit quietly. Our thoughts go on tangents, seeking rabbit holes without our permission, and our feelings, having been stifled, seem to bring forth the most inconvenient emotions. Perhaps this happens because we never allow them to come out, we never give them a chance to run free. Like a dog kept in a cage or cows prevented from grazing, it is only natural for it to be awkward when finally given a voice, a chance at freedom. Perhaps that anxiety and depression that seems to coming knocking is actually our soul’s need for silence. It is our inner voice of our soul that is banging on the bars of the cage, begging for freedom.

I have only two rules when it comes to silence.

  1. What happens in silence, stays in silence. It need not be discussed, unless that is your desire. Forging your own relationship with the voice of your soul for the first time can look messy.  We may think strange things, or feel that anger that has been buried for years. We may have intrusive thoughts about what we said in jest to a friend or feel the grief from our grandmother passing decades earlier that we never fully felt. It gets better. If we ride out the wave of what happens when we allow ourselves to sit quietly, things will settle. We will begin to hear the music playing so beautifully from the silence of our surroundings.
  2. Be comfortable. No need to suffer in silence. Grab a blanket, a mug of hot tea, a glass of water with ice. Sit in a field of grass or lay in bed. Even driving can be a wonderful place for silence when we turn off the radio. I like to hear the silence with my morning coffee. It seems that if I do not sit first thing, I do not sit. Emails, errands, writing, cleaning, my son – all take precedent. When we don’t label it, or think that it has to be done in a certain way, silence feels like a warm bubble bath, both soothing and invigorating.

As much as I love the mindfulness movement, the encouragement to meditate, it has created an imaginary box, a way of doing something that puts many people off. Sitting in silence is not about setting a timer and closing our eyes, chanting or listening to our breath, unless it works for you. There is no time limit or method. It is just about sitting, in the way that feels most comfortable for you, and just being. You can write things down, or not. Focus on your breath or not. Close your eyes or leave them open. Go for a run. Garden. Bake.

What do you hear? Smell? Feel? Sense? 

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With my coffee this morning, as I sit, I can both, hear sounds I usually overlook and feel what lies beyond the silence. I hear my husband snoring from the other room, my dog breathing lightly, and the birds making  plans around the yard. I can feel the emptiness of my daughters’ rooms, and the anticipation of my son’s excitement waking on a Saturday morning, having no school. I sense the flowers on the deck making their final offering to the bees, before giving in to the cold and snow.

As I sit longer, the sounds continue. An alarm from a watch goes off for ten seconds. It calls to me from a distant room of the house, likely lost behind a dresser. The white noise from the environment increases in intensity, its energy pulling me into the remembering that so much is going on behind the scenes in our lives, that there is another world going on within our world. Ideas, plans, to do lists begin to elbow their way to the forefront. I greet their existence, and having been welcomed, they simply take a number and wait their turn for my attention. Body sensations become known – last night’s dinner having a rager, while cool water settle its rumblings.

The sounds of silence are never silent. It is filled with hope, sadness, passion, expectations and anticipation of what is to come. As it was sung, “Here my words and I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you. But my words, like silent raindrops fell. And echoed in the wells of silence.”

In the end, it is not my words that will teach, or another’s. But the walls within your own desire to sit within the silence and all you need to know will reveal itself to you. Your questions, desires, hopes and dreams. Don’t be afraid of the silence. It has everything you want and need. You just need to open the cage and walk out.When we welcome silence, it receives our invitation. As often as I forget, silence is always waiting, patiently. It will always invite me back no matter how many times I shun it, or put it off.

The world is your oyster. It is waiting for you. You just need to be quiet enough to hear it.

Please excuse all grammatical errors and typos. My editor is on a permanent vacation in the Bahamas.

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Suicide: Why I Never Did It.

GUEST BLOG POST:

I wanted to die.  Not out of anger or fear.  I just wanted the pain to go away. It was the only way I could imagine it would stop. End it! I didn’t just feel pain. I was pain itself – and it had to end.

I had some deep dark days dealing with childhood sexual abuse, a teenage rape and feelings of utter worthlessness.

I never actually physically attempted suicide.  But for many years the thought was never far from my mind.

What kept me from doing it?

In the beginning it may have been the Catholic faith I was raised in.  A part of me was hopeful, despite my deep depression. I was an optimist at heart.  I kept telling myself that maybe, it would get better.

Maybe, if I offed myself I would miss something really good that would make me feel happy and good about myself.  What if that good thing happened tomorrow and I would miss it by just one day?

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Maybe it was Rita Moreno.  I saw her on a talk show many years ago where she talked about her suicide attempt.  “If you ever feel like killing yourself just wait one day,” she said.

I always waited.

I found strong support through therapy, but the thoughts persisted. Suicide became a trusted escape hatch.  When the depression and anxiety felt too much to handle I could tell myself, I had a way out.  I was not trapped in this mess.  I could leave anytime I wanted.  I didn’t have to actually go down that chute, but if it was handy I would feel safe.

I was tired of the dark sameness of my life, but the idea of change was terrifying.

I was afraid to show who I was.  Exposure felt unsafe. Stay hidden or you will be abused, beaten, raped. But something in me wanted to emerge. I dared myself to break out. Step into the light. It felt like I would die if I stepped out even one inch. I was trapped there in that place between deep yearning and fear. It felt like I would die, if I did this, if I stepped out into the light. I realized this was a suicide. I would die this way. Not a physical death – but a jumping off the cliff into a new way of being.  A new expression of who I am.

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Since that first leap, I have had many suicides.  I confronted my abuser.  That was jumping off a scary cliff.  Years later, I forgave him.  That was an even bigger cliff.  I took on leadership positions at work. That was frightening – it was exposure. I might be a target for abuse – but I was not. Those leadership positions helped me discover a whole part of myself that was always there, but had kept hidden even from myself.

I jumped into relationships – some were successful, some, not so successful.  Jumping into them was a suicide – jumping out of them was a suicide.

I survived all of them.  The old Elaine was dead and the new one was there to live a new joyful life.

My favorite suicide has always been the last one — When I am still still basking in the afterglow after having taken a chance to expand into my sense of who I am.

My most favorite suicide is the next one.  I don’t yet know what that is. I eagerly await its revelation.  I will jump off that cliff with joy into a new me.

ELAINE OCASIO

 

The Hidden Truth of Depression

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Like many, I have experienced depression at different times in my life. I have never felt the “I cannot get out of bed depression” or the “I cannot go on” depression, but I have experienced those feelings of emptiness, loneliness, loss of appetite, interest and connection.

If you experienced the devastating effects of deep depression, medication can be a life saver. It can give you the space you need to be able to even receive what I am saying or to be able to think differently about your situation. This is the moment, where I remind you that I am not a doctor. And if you think you need help for your depression, there is no shame in reaching out.

Very often, I receive very strong messages that come to me at times during meditation or when I least expect it. Yesterday, I was given the awareness we need to view depression, not as an inconvenience or detriment, but as a gift. Stay with me.

Depression is a space that is left when our ego has begun to unravel. This can happen from a loss, a change in routine, or during ongoing self-awareness. Our ego is there to help us – to keep track of time and space, and our daily lives. But egos can be very inflexible, and change is a part of being human, and living our lives. Change causes our ego to release its grip upon our psyche, and this can feel uncomfortable and empty. Imagine a person hugging tightly to you, and then they back away. While freeing, it can feel different, uncomfortable, empty. You are very aware of the space that is now there. All those patterns, routines and security are now gone.

Loss of loved one or job. Divorce. Life Change (children moving out). Therapy. Illness. Awareness and insight. Even a change in routine can trigger the space of emptiness. Your yoga teacher cancels, your child gets in trouble at school, you become demoted – can all lead to emptiness.

If we rush to fill that space with food, drugs, alcohol or technology, we never move beyond it. It is then, we can become stuck. We have now just become “addicted”, in addition to  “depressed.”

What if we allow that space to unfold, and treat ourselves kindly, like we are dancing into new territory, one that can feel strange, but also exciting. If we name this space of emptiness as a “time out” and don’t try to rush it away, self-medicate it. If we allow it to just be, for as long as it needs. We will change! It will not go on forever, even if it feels like it will. But we cannot force it to go, for then like an unwanted house guest, it will stay well beyond its welcome.

It is not about rehashing, but healing. It is not about running away from, but allowing. It is about becoming comfortable with uncomfortable empty spaces, and the feelings that may come and go.

I am not only relaying what I intuitively received – I have done all of this. It is always just beyond my actions that the awareness comes in. It has become my practice to do something as intuitively guided, and then the understanding follows.  I know from experience, it is not easy, but allowing the space to just “be” allows for not only a deeper understanding of our selves, but so much more.

Sometimes, it can get rough – as dark feelings can move in and out of that emptiness. Shadow feelings of grief, anger, resentment, and sadness can move in. Don’t raise the rent, allow them to linger until they move on. Their stay is temporary, I promise. This too shall pass, and in its place will come everything you can imagine.

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While allowing the space, it is important to also practice self-care. Picture your self in a new place, a new room, with an open door. Feelings can come in and out, as they need, no appointment is necessary. Make that room as comfortable as you can – put in a fireplace, a warm couch with a soft blanket, some ice-cold water to keep you hydrated, or hot tea to warm you. Hang some beautiful pictures on the wall. Even bring in a soft big teddy bear. Think comfort and safety. Make it all about you, and what you need. This is what self-care is about, and it needs to happen even more when we are moving into that space of emptiness, so that we can withstand the discomfort.

What does this self-care look like in real life? Releasing toxic relationships, saying no, putting up boundaries, a hot bath, a good book, a warm nourishing meal, a funny movie, or even just letting someone know how you feel. It is whatever you need in any given moment without judgement.

Just on the other side of the depression is a life you have always dreamed about. The confidence to move away from addiction, and into awareness. Our minds can benefit along with our hearts. The release of all those egoic and competitive needs – to be right, better, higher than others. Obsessions, fears and bad habits, can fade as we move into a more open-hearted way of living and loving. Everything we ever wanted – all the joy, peace and self-love – is bestowed upon us.

It gets easier, I promise. Many years ago, I would have done whatever I could to rid myself of any feelings of emptiness – run, eat, drink – you name it. Today, I become excited when I sense it because I know what is happening, and how I am continuing to move along my life journey. I am about to embark on something new, and release a piece of old conditioning that is no longer serving me.

So let’s stop calling it “depression” and call it “a time out.” Let’s view it as a gift, and if we can see it as such, we can unwrap our self, unwind our ego. Inside, we find the beauty of our true self. Rest in the beauty of that emptiness, take a pregnant pause and allow it to unfold as we are guided through the uncomfortable feelings, we move into a life we can only imagine. Everything we ever wanted is just outside of this discomfort zone.