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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My Response to my 9-year-old son’s Statement: “Immigrants cause Cancer.”

My latest essay published on Elephant Journal:

 

My Response to my 9-year-old son’s Statement: “Immigrants cause Cancer.”

“Do you want to hear something funny, Mom?”

I glanced at my nine-year-old son, but was also busy fixing my rear-view mirror and adjusting the heat in the car.

Because we were running late for school, I was only half paying attention when he said, “Immigrants cause cancer.”

If I had taken a sip of coffee, I would have spit it out right then.

“Where did you hear that?” I asked, holding my breath. I mean, it could have been a myriad of places—another kid, who heard it from another kid, who heard it from his parents…or the internet, as turned out to be the case. In a YouTube video.

While the video itself is clearly intended to be humorous, I was dumbfounded. I immediately replied to my son, who I adopted from Russia, “Did you know that you are an immigrant?” I paused to let that sink in. “And there are many reasons why that statement is not funny. Let me explain.”

Stunned, my son sat in complete silence.

In that moment, I realized there are so many things a nine-year-old just doesn’t understand. Most children his age are only just trying to grasp the nature of our world, and nowadays, it is right there in front of them to take in. Donald Trump has created the newest form of reality TV—he and his policies are everywhere.

Now, should my nine-year-old be watching YouTube uncensored? Maybe not. Which begs the question, should he even be anywhere within 10 feet of the TV when we are watching CNN, Stephen Colbert, or Saturday Night Live? Because there is hardly a difference anymore.

Technology has brought the outside world into our homes. And a big part of the outside world, at least in America, is “The Donald Trump Show.”

No matter how much we would like to shelter our children so that they can one day create their own objective views of the world when they’re old enough to actually form them based on higher learning, we simply can’t.

As parents, most of us have been sucked into “The Donald Trump Show,” regardless of which side we are on. We toss our opinions around like a pizza, eventually dropping them on the counter, placing some good-tasting stuff on top, and hoping that someone agrees ours is the best one to sink their teeth into.

Politics is everywhere because of Donald Trump. Social media is everywhere, too, and our kids are learning how to navigate the world of technology at a very early age. The combination of these means that our children will hear things that are racist, biased, false, vindictive, and just plain mean. How can we expect our children to act responsibly online if our president won’t even do so? Or if their role models—athletes, movie stars, singers—post Instagram pictures showcasing how good they look in a bathing suit, as if that’s all that matters in life?

Well, we can, if we teach them the value our words and actions carry.

We are not going to change our world overnight, nor are we going to impeach our president anytime soon—and maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe the lessons we are all learning from this are invaluable.

Our children are growing up in the age of technology, and there is really no way around it. We, as parents, need to show them why our words matter. Posting should follow The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Technology ensures that our words and pictures stay out there for more than a moment—and sometimes forever.

That morning, it didn’t matter that we were late for school. I pulled over to talk about why that video was hurtful. And it was a good lesson.

On my way home, I thought about censoring my son’s time online, which I already do because, well, the whole shorter attention span thing. And the addictive nature of technology. And the “stranger danger” worries. But he is not learning compassion for others from the internet; he is learning it at home. And he is making some mistakes, just as we did growing up (teasing someone without realizing its impact, for instance). Many of us grew into compassionate, responsible adults, and so will our children.

Taking away our children’s social media will just postpone the lessons they will learn. We do not take away the stove so they won’t burn themselves, or the stairs so they won’t trip. They will fall, and they will burn themselves, and they will learn the lesson, hopefully sooner rather than later, that words matter, that what we read online is usually just one person’s opinion, that there are people out there who are unhappy and in pain and lash out with criticisms and judgments online as a result. And there are those in power who have access to Twitter who are able to say whatever they wish to whomever they please.

What we can do, as parents, is teach our children the difference between right and wrong. To slow down and think about the impact their words might have on another. To remember the tenets of mindful speech.

Yes, our words matter, even if our president does not understand this truth. Allowing our children to learn this lesson early will help them become more aware about the nature and importance of responsible posting, texting, tweeting, and commenting. Preventing them access will just keep them in a bubble, which will inevitably burst.

 

 

You can find this essay on Elephant Journal, as well as other thought provoking articles.

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/01/my-response-to-my-9-year-old-sons-statement-immigrants-cause-cancer/