“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Anne Lamott, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope.
I believe one of the most difficult things for humans to do is to simply do nothing. To allow oneself to sit in complete silence and allow your mind to simply…be. No music, no cell phones, no books, no electronics, no chores, no to-do-list.
A lot of people find it difficult to be in a room when it is silent. Silence, in itself, does not bother me. I can read and write in silence, I can hike in silence, I can work in silence. But to simply do nothing…I find this to be challenging and unproductive unless I’m asleep.
After finishing Anne Lamott’s new book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope – which by the way is an excellent book and everyone should read it – I pondered the chapter in which she recommends everyone should sit silently, doing nothing, for a few minutes everyday. It can be away to reenergize your mind, clear your thoughts, and simply be okay with being you. Call it meditation, prayer, unplugging, whatever you like. But it means being alone with your thoughts with nothing to distract your mind.
I have tried meditation several times during my yoga practice and the more I try to clear my mind and think of nothing the harder my thoughts crowd and swirl in my head. I once thought this to be a failure on my part. But several yoga instructors have helped me understand that it is not a failure at all. Meditation, like yoga, is a practice. I have come to understand that each time I try meditation I am practicing to be okay with the silence despite all my thoughts. That’s why it’s called a practice, not a perfect.
Several days ago I was sitting in my living room having just finished reading a book, and I was debating on what task to take on next – laundry, cooking, cleaning – when I decided to take Ms. Lamott’s advice and simply sit for a few minutes doing literally nothing and attempting to allow my mind to relax without thoughts of anything in particular. I let my eyes roam the room without any particular destination. My eyes wandered the room and began to land on objects that make me happy and I began remembering where they were obtained and the special memories behind them. As thoughts of things I should be doing popped into my head I did my best to brush them away and let my eyes linger on the things that bring me joy.
As I sat there allowing the moment of silence to fill me, I felt my anxieties receding and my mind relaxing. And I had a brief moment of feeling satisfied – and in that moment I was enough. And for me, that was the real gift. It even allowed new ideas for future writing projects to slip into my thoughts – small glimpses of things that I had not thought of before because my brain was too busy working in overdrive on all the things that I should be doing.
I haven’t been able to replicate that moment since, but it helped me realize that silence is a gift we give ourselves. And perhaps it will be a while before I can allow myself to experience this again. I’ll just have to keep practicing.