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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We Can Change the World, One Gatorade Bottle at a Time.

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It is way too easy to get lost in our world. We live among billions of people, each attending to their own lives, families, jobs and if there is time, having a bit of fun. Somewhere in between work and play, we may find we have a passion that hides, lurking in the bushes like an excited child waiting to pop out at us. A passion for something higher than ourselves, outside of our personal lives.

It may be cleaning up the planet, and we may hop on the bandwagon, finding ourselves writing letters to our congressmen or posting pictures on Facebook about ways to stop using plastic. Or we may become outraged at the poisoning of our food, or the abuse of animals, both domestic and farm.  Some of us have a passion for politics and we stay glued to our televisions, watching and waiting, yelling and complaining about the latest lie or dirty campaign. Or we build homes in Central America or help to gentrify our own neighborhoods.

How wonderful to feel called to a higher purpose, but it also may feel like a burden – the more the passion arises, the more helpless we feel.  The problems of our world seem huge, overwhelming and our small part – well, are we really making a  difference?  And of course, there is that other side of our lives. Work, parenting, baseball games. We carry on doing. Carpooling, enjoying trips to the theatre, hanging out with friends and cooking our dinners – heck this is just as important, and many don’t have time to venture out to help our planet.  And yet, the bigger things, the issues of our world still remain in our peripheral vision, gnawing at us to do something. And what can we do, really?  Can we really make a difference?

I have come to realize that we can make a difference. But we need to start small, really small. Almost every day, I find myself walking in the woods, a path near my house.  The abundance of trees surrounding the trail and brook that provide a home for birds, fish insects and the occasional snake. It is beautiful, serene and often to my liking, I find myself alone, with only the accompany of a dog.

A few times a year, they stock the brook and the few ponds where the water gather with Trout, and fishermen have begun to gather each day.  With the fisherman comes discarded garbage, some of it meant to make the trash can, others left without care.  At first, this angered me, and I walked by, thinking why people toss their trash without just walking a few steps to the garbage can.  And then I begin thinking about all the plastic in the world collecting within the beautiful waters of our oceans and land, and then I think what can I do really?  Ugh! All those grocery bags! But just the other day, I stopped thinking that I can’t make a difference.

Unknown-6I heard a voice deep within my being that said, just pick it up.  I looked around.  How can I pick up all this garbage?  I will spend all my time cleaning up and not enjoying my walk which has come to calm and clear my head, proving peace and serenity in a chaotic world. Then the voice returned, it said,  you do not need to pick up everything.  Just pick up one piece.  So I did.  And then I thought I can carry three or four pieces to the garbage can, and I did.  And I went on with my walk.

The next day, I set out down my favorite path, I found more garbage and picked up a few pieces and put them in the trash. And I began to feel, as small as it was, that I was making a difference. For if we do something small, that is right in front of us, this is the most direct way we can change our world. Even if we feel like we are not making a dent.

For we need both, the masses and the individual. Would Rosa Parks, in 1955 have had the strength to refuse to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus which spurred a city-wide boycott, had the masses not come before her, marching and protesting? She was not the first to resist, as there were many that came before her throughout the 40’s and early 50’s, and after her. It was the momentum, persistence and patience that eventually led to changes in our segregation laws. And there was that one person that said, I can make a difference. Rosa did not act alone, and neither do we when we perform one random act of kindness.

When I turn my attention back to my own life, in the year 2017, and I look at the myriad of protesting, marching, and discord within our government and the chaos and fighting going on in the world as a whole, I think can I really make a difference? I mean, I am no Mother Theresa – not even close.

And yet, as I stepped out of my car to go grocery shopping, and kicked an empty Gatorade bottle, I heard that voice again, saying, pick it up and toss it in the garbage.  So I did. Is this a bit grandiose for me to think about that I, alone, can make a difference in the world, by picking up an empty Gatorade bottle? No. Because I am not alone. There are masses of people looking to clean up our planet, recycling programs, as well as, climate change programs that are doing their best to survive the agenda of our current government. I don’t have to be working in Washington, DC to make a difference.

How Is my picking up the small pieces of garbage making a difference in all the pollution, plastics and garbage wrecking havoc upon our planet? Can you imagine if we all picked up a few pieces of garbage, give a few dollars to someone who is homeless or took a few moments to let someone go in front of us?  Or we just sent our prayers everyday to those who are less fortunate than we are – those who are hungry, unsafe or in harm’s way when walking outside their front door. We think we have to do something huge, but we don’t.

We don’t even have to seek it out – our higher self passions. What if we all woke each more, and took a few seconds, and uttered the phrase, “Today, let me be the answer to someone else’s prayers. or today I will do one random act of kindness.”  And then went about our day, until the opportunity arose for us to help. I bet we would all find our small moment to do something to help our beautiful planet with the amazing billions of people who live on it. If we all said a prayer, in between our play off games and sales appointments, or if we just noticed when something or someone came across our path that needed our attention, we really would not need to leave our living rooms, unless called to do so. And this is as much a reminder for myself, as it is for anyone reading this article. We all get caught up in our personal lives, forgetting how we can make a difference, or help one another.

We all have a little voice inside of our heads that speak to us. We just need to spend a few moments in quiet, so we can hear it. We can all make a difference. There is a Rosa Parks, in all of us. We just need to figure out what bus we are meant to get on, and then climb aboard.