In this month’s article, we talked about how silence and solitude can help you learn to be in touch with your inner self, but it can also be a great way to understand what you really believe. The article uses a quote from essayist William Deresiewicz in a speech he gave to college students about how avoiding silence is a way to avoid confronting our own thoughts.
Later in that same speech, he said, “Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now—older people as well as younger people—you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else.”
Susan agreed and, while a devoted student of self-improvement, understood the value of using lessons from others as a stepping stone. She wrote in End the Struggle and Dance With Life, “Although it is wonderful to learn about life from books, tapes, and all manner of external teachers, if that is the only source of our learning, we are what [philosopher] Krishnamurti calls ‘second-hand people.’ When we go to the source that lies deep within our being to guide us in our Journey through life, we become first-hand people once again.”
If we only rely on the thoughts, teachings, and opinions of others, we aren’t really participating in our own life. This is why giving ourselves downtime to experience our own thoughts without the constant bombardment of content is so important, not only to our spiritual growth, but also to our growth as a participant in the world around us.
Switching off is really hard for nearly all of us, for different reasons, but it is an important step to take. “In the beginning, sitting in the silence may be uncomfortable. But after a while, we come to look forward to this wondrous time where we have NOTHING to do but be there. In this time of increased struggle and responsibility, what could be better? Isn’t it wonderful to do something where whatever you do is perfectly OK?” said Susan.
Take the time to find yourself in silence and solitude and become a first-hand person again.