Living in the age that we do, it is hard to find quiet time, let alone time to be by ourselves. With social media, internet on our phones, radios and TVs, information at our fingertips, constant contact with our work colleagues, friends and family, we are always occupied—so even when we are alone we aren’t really.
Silence is not something we see as a necessity. For most of us, silence is something to be filled. As Susan wrote in End the Struggle and Dance With Life, “Because it’s a rarity, most of us are uncomfortable with silence. The moment we enter our homes, the television goes on or we pick up the phone…or both! Silence is, indeed, a scary prospect for many people who need noise or ‘busyness’ around them all the time.”
In a speech to college students, called “Solitude and Leadership,” essayist William Deresiewicz pointed out, “It seems to me that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube—and just so you don’t think this is a generational thing, TV and radio and magazines and even newspapers, too—are all ultimately just an elaborate excuse to run away from yourself. To avoid the difficult and troubling questions that being human throws in your way.”
So many of us just don’t know how to be without anything to distract us. We don’t know how to be alone with our own thoughts. Susan said, “Can you remember the last time you allowed yourself such moments of silent wonder? If you are anything like the rest of us, the answer is ‘no.’” For many of us growing up, we are taught that being idle is wrong. We are taught to always be doing.
Why is silence and solitude important? Because when we are alone with our thoughts we can get in touch with our true selves and make a Higher Self connection with the Universe. It gives us the opportunity to think and to be just as we are.
“Despite our discomfort with silence, I believe that we all have a yearning to get to this peaceful place within our being,” Susan wrote. “Silence is a no-no in our society; so, there are very few of us who have embraced the riches of a quiet mind. A child lying on the bed doing nothing is often greeted by a nagging parent’s insistence that he or she get up and do something. What we don’t realize is that he or she is doing something…something very important…connecting with the solitude.”
Anxiety has become a daily experience for many of us, especially for children, and the constant bombardment of information exacerbates the issue. A new therapy method for helping kids deal with their anxiety is called “Radical Downtime.” This calls for kids to have a period of unscheduled time each day in order to let their brain process all the input it has taken. It allows for daydreaming, idle play, doodling, and self-reflection—and reportedly helps kids process their anxiety.
Maybe it is time for a little “Radical Downtime” for all of us. Susan would have appreciated this kind of therapy. She wrote, “In order to embrace fully the riches in our life, we need to go deep within our being to our Higher Self—and beyond—and listen to the important messages we hold inside. In order to do this, we must learn how to embrace the silence…how to quiet the endless chatter in the mind…the chatter of the Lower Self…so that we can hear.”
How do we learn to listen to the silence, enjoy the solitude, and be in touch with our own thoughts? Turning off all our electronics is a start, or putting them aside where they can’t be distracting. This includes smart watches and ear buds, as well as smart phones. Then give yourself the time and space to just think. Staring off into space is a great way start getting comfortable with your solitude and silence.
For those who need more structure, Susan recommended meditation. Meditation helps us learn that thoughts are just thoughts, and we don’t have to get attached to the drama they can bring. “In meditation, we watch our thoughts passing by as if they were floats in a parade…or clouds passing by on a sunny day. We become the witness instead of the central figure in the drama. In so doing we are totally changing our relationship with the thoughts that usually drive us crazy!”
For those of us who prefer movement to sitting still, we can also reach that quiet space in our head through exercise, taking long walks, tai chi, or even dancing. Yoga was invented to help monks better practice meditation, but it can be meditative in itself.
However you approach your own “radical downtime,” it is important that you learn to enjoy the silence and embrace your solitude. Susan wrote, “As we turn off the sound and move into silence, the dancing can begin. We finally hear the music of our Soul and it is this that gives us peace. And as we listen to the music of our Soul, we mysteriously and wondrously hear the music of everyone else’s as well…and we are one with the world.”