It’s a snowy Tuesday afternoon in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. I find myself home early from work and with the house to myself. After watching a devastatingly painful war movie called, “We Were Soldiers”, I decided to turn everything off — the TV, the radio, the computer, the lights — and just sit still, listening to “the sound of silence” (to quote Simon and Garfunkel). In years past, such unstructured time and silence would be a recipe for bingeing, over-exercising, and/or self-loathing. Not anymore. These days, I can actually sit still in the silence of an empty house with the myriad thoughts in my head and just BE. The sound of silence no longer frightens me. It actually invites me to tune into my surroundings in a way that the busyness of my life usually precludes.
So, what did I notice about the sound of silence? Well, silence is quite LOUD. I heard the snow pinging against the window A/C unit. I heard the wind rattling the window screens as it blew in gusts past the house. I heard the steady ticking of the second hand coming from the clock in the office. I heard one of my cats sigh from her sleepy position in front of the heater. I heard the gentle rumbling of my stomach. The sound of silence brought many thoughts to mind, some that I tried to dismiss, like the voice of disordered eating that said, “No one’s home! Go eat whatever you want before they return! Who cares that you’re having dinner in an hour?” Instead of heeding that voice, I settled back in to the sound of silence to find out what else it had to say.
Suddenly, the silence seemed to call me to my feet. As I rose to “attention”, I thought about the purpose of that military command: “Attention!” It calls soldiers to their positions, where they wait in silence, alert and aware to all that is going on around them. It allows them to tune into themselves and each other and to be still enough to hear the next command. How many of us are actually alert and aware of ourselves or others on a daily basis? I’m afraid I often fall short of that goal. Sure, I talk with my clients about mindful awareness of the present and I practice mindfulness exercises several times a week. But my attention to myself and to others wanes quickly, especially when my head fills up with “radio static” — worries about my clients, fears about not living up to others’ expectations, concerns about my weight and shape, regrets about the past — all of this static distracts me from what’s going on right in front of me: moments of awe, wonder, joy, peace, and opportunities for genuine connection between souls in need of love. These moments are mine (ours) for the taking, if we only stand at attention for a brief moment and listen to the sound of silence.
When will you rise to attention, clear away some of the static, and tune into the silence? Challenge yourself to embrace it, even if you once feared it.
Peace, joy, and health,