Does silence make you uncomfortable?

Does silence make you uncomfortable? Sally shares her journey.I’ve been thinking about silence. Why there’s so little of it, and why so many choose to avoid what little there is. And most importantly, my own evolving relationship with it.

There are lots of studies about the harmful effects of noise. It raises our blood pressure, weakens our immune system, makes it hard for us to learn, undermines our emotional stability, and so on.

You’d think we would seek out silence. You’d think we’d crave it. Value it above gold. And while it’s generally true that wealthy people can choose to avoid living near noisy roads or train lines, few truly embrace quiet.

What are we afraid of?

Last year, when I told friends I’d registered for a 10-day silent meditation retreat, some flat out said, “I could never do that!” Others were okay with the idea of not speaking, then became sweaty and uncomfortable when they learned “silence” also meant abstaining from reading, writing, or going online.

This near-panic at the prospect of stillness raises the question, what are we afraid of?

Before the end of the third day of last year’s retreat, more than 10% of the attendees had quit and left. The day before the rest of us would leave, silence was lifted and conversations began. Some attendees related extreme experiences. One woman had cried herself to sleep every night. Another had had spontaneous past life regressions. But the most common experiences seemed to be anxiety and difficulty in quieting the mind.

Aside from some super-realistic, otherwise un-extraordinary dreams, my experience had no such drama. My body hurt like hell a couple of days from sitting in meditation. A couple of days I felt so bored I thought I’d shout “Are we done yet?” in the middle of a group sit.

Silence makes us confront our fear that we're unlikeable.Weirdly, the thing I found most difficult was avoiding eye contact with those sharing the retreat experience. Of course, that was part of the point of silence. In silence, we cannot compare our experience with anyone else’s. And in silence, we can’t drown our thoughts with words or music. We can’t escape ourselves.

Are you scary company?

Perhaps the prospect of being left to face our true self is what makes so many of us avoid silence. What if we don’t like what we find? What if, without the validation of other people, we discover we’re completely unlikeable? What then? How would we go on?

It can take awhile to learn to defuse our self-judgement, relax in our own company and release any tendency to measure our worth against the actions (and reactions) of others. I call this process “shoveling sh*t out of the engine room,” and I’ve been digging it for years.

Happily, there are lots of tools available today to help speed the process. An online search for “How to live in the present moment” turns up thousands of suggestions, resources and videos.

My summer of silent basking

This summer offered me a different kind of retreat. For two months, I lived outside a small town, house-sitting amidst five lushly wooded acres. My daily soundtrack: the fountain by the front door, the wind chimes in the backyard, my cat’s purr, the distant lowing of cattle that freely roamed the area. Visual noise is just as disruptive as sound.

No traffic sounds to speak of. No car alarms. No neighbors’ barking dogs, loud conversations or music. Most of the time, I was alone in a huge 6-bedroom house without so much as a single ticking clock or dripping faucet.

Heaven.

I slipped so easily into the bliss of my quiet surroundings, a trip to a nearby mega store nearly crushed me. The giant product displays, oversized banners shouting “Great Price!” in letters as tall as the length of my arm. The 50” TV screens showing the latest children’s film releases, while classic rock music hummed over the store’s sound system.

Make it stop!

I felt sick to my stomach. I urgently wanted to leave the store. In fact, by the time I rounded the frozen food aisles and headed for the checkout, I knew if I didn’t get out soon, I would descend into hiccuping tears like a frightened toddler.

How had I ever coped with my old life, I wondered, with all the big-box stores and traffic and daily noise? How could I possibly ever go back?

Perhaps I’ve learned too well the preciousness of silence, to be so sensitive to its disruption. But go back I did, back to big-city life. Back to traffic and ticking clocks and Facebook.

Embrace silence and know you're loved.It hasn’t been easy. I tire more easily, and must make allowances to take care of myself. I’ve loaded a white-noise app on my mobile electronics, which at least masks other sounds—I let it play while I’m sleeping. And when I get a quiet moment, I revel in it, free of to-do lists or food or phone calls. Just. Being.

How’s your relationship with silence? Do you seek it or shun it? What would you do if someone offered you a 10-day experience of silence? What about a 10-minute experience?

Is your reaction different than it would have been ten years ago? Hmm. Interesting how things change. Maybe you and silence are ready to take your relationship to a new level.

Don’t worry. I won’t tell a soul.


Photo credit (shush): Mateus Lunardi Dutra

The Lovers: Tarot energy of 2013

Keywords: Harmony, decisions, union, rite of passage, romance.
Keywords: Harmony, decisions, union, rite of passage, romance.

The year 2013 is a “6” year in numerology. (We get that by adding 2 + 0 + 1 + 3 = 6) The sixth card in Tarot’s Major Arcana is The Lovers, so expect the energy of this card to be widely available. If you have any dreams or plans with a Lovers-like flavor, dust ‘em off and put them into motion—there’s lots of support available this year.

Under the energy of The Lovers, an overall strategy of cooperation (or collaboration) will be more successful than competition. This is the year to release thoughts of us/them in favor of seeking win/win solutions. It’s a time to remember that our decisions impact others.

"Cream & Sugar" in The Kitchen Tarot by Susan Shie & Dennis Fairchild.
“Cream & Sugar” in The Kitchen Tarot by Susan Shie & Dennis Fairchild.

Of course, there’s a chance of getting carried away with the feel-good, romantic energy of The Lovers. The shadow side of The Lovers includes the temptation to over-sacrifice in the name of harmony. Or to get so swept off your feet that you make decisions you later regret.

That said, The Lovers can provide a welcome spirit of optimism and an interest in working together. To repair/renegotiate/release inharmonious relationships. To explore what’s possible when we embrace a more romantic view of life. Who will we meet? How will we treat the people we love? What happens when we our decisions arise from love, rather than fear?

This is the year to find out.


Check out The Kitchen Tarot at Hay House. It’s currently featured for just $1! (Not affiliated, just a fan.)

Just won’t float

When I say I’m not the woman I was at 25, usually it’s because today’s 50-year old version of me feels freer, more confident and happier than I could imagine in my twenties. But recently, I freaked out in a spa’s floatation tank. It’s made me think about what personal growth really means.

Unsinkable in a mere foot of water

The spa promised an hour free of gravity’s shackles. I’d float like a cork in womb-like darkness in 300 gallons of water, saturated with more than a thousand pounds of Epsom salts, in a human-sized tank. The tank was soundproof and utterly dark. No distractions. Thanks to the body-temperature water, I’d soon lose track of where my skin ended and the water began.

Some might quail at the prospect, but I couldn’t wait. Back in the 80s, float tanks provided me a rare escape from my busy, busy brain.

When history fails to repeat

I had anticipated a spiritual experience, appropriate of the many ways I’ve evolved in the decades since my last float. Instead, I panicked before I’d even turned out the light.

Lying in the dark tank was out of the question, but I decided I’d use my hour in this warm, quiet place to enjoy some private meditation. Upright, I gained sufficient density to touch my bottom to the tank’s floor. I switched off the light, listened to my breath and released the need to wonder why 50-year-old me rejected something my nervous 25-year-old self had embraced so easily.

Sometimes it’s okay to be left in the dark

Why is a question I still haven’t answered. Perhaps it happened that way because I’m currently learning to recognize energetic boundaries, and so losing sense of my body would confuse me. Perhaps I was simply having a touchy day.

Perhaps why it happened that way matters less than that it did.

Turns out, growth isn’t linear

Fifty-year-old me went into the tank expecting to pick up where 25-year-old me left off. But if 25-year-old me had freaked in the tank, harsh self-criticism would have followed. Only with the perspective of age was I able to adapt to what was happening with presence and a new set of responses, rather than cling to my expectations and judge myself accordingly.

When I look at it that way, I reckon I had my spiritual experience after all.


Photo credit: From the official i-sopod website

New things: Produce locker as tornado shelter

The season of warm-weather drama launched today in north Texas with tornado sightings by the handful.

When the warning sirens went off, I was in the grocery store. Well-trained employees herded me and the other customers into a storage room between the produce and the seafood departments.

Taking time to chill

We stood on the concrete floor amidst towering industrial shelves, loaded with boxes of celery, mangoes and other lovely edibles from all over the planet, shivering in the refrigerated air. (40°F. Brr!)

Right away, folks pulled out their cell phones, checking in with loved ones. But once immediate personal concerns had been handled, we started noticing one another. Conversations sprang up, sharing of what little we knew of the storms. Someone had a sophisticated weather app on his device and he provided periodic updates as he tracked what was happening in real time. We were in this together.

Still, it didn’t take long before we were all wanting to sit down. Or better yet, get on about our day. More tornadoes had been sighted, though, and we weren’t going anywhere.

Well-timed caffeine boosts our morale

Store employees rounded up bottles of water for us. They organized a cart loaded with hot coffee and cookies from the bakery department. A steaming cup of joe went a long way to taking off the chill of that refrigerated room. We went back to swapping stories until it was safe for us to leave.

In my time, tornadoes have caught me in office buildings and private homes. I’ve hunkered in stairwells, closets, bathrooms and basements. But until today, I’ve never spent an hour literally rubbing elbows with grocery-seeking strangers in a room stacked with exotic produce. Truly a fresh experience.

[I’m celebrating my 50th birthday year by trying 50 new things. This post contributes to my chronicle of some of those new things. Why not subscribe to my feed and follow the entire adventure?]


Photo credit: supa_pedro

Mirrors, mirrors. Aren’t we all?


People can be so annoying. Especially when they show me something about myself I don’t want to see.

It happened at a recent Meetup. One of my fellow students of Tarot read her cards with fluttering hands and plenty of mystical drama. Normally, I would chalk it up to personal style and perhaps find it amusing. This time, it irritated me.

Why? If I needed to justify my feeling, I’d point to the way she spouted prognostications as set-in-stone truths. This precludes free will and thus violates my code as a Tarot reader.

But that very afternoon, I’d rolled my eyes while telling a friend about a client’s infatuation with the mystical trappings commonly assigned to the intuitive and psychic sides of life.

What was my beef?

Time to look in the mirror

Truth is, I was once as infatuated as my client. And while I’ve not indulged in the kind of hand-fluttering as my fellow reader, I recognize it as a symptom of the same thing.

It seemed my irritation stemmed from being reminded of a version of myself I’ve left behind. But if I’d truly left it behind, I’d feel compassion rather than irritation.

My irritation carried the ugly whiff of judgment. And now that I’ve noticed it, other examples are popping up. They represent different areas of my past/beliefs/self-image. Facing these mirrors challenges me. It’s uncomfortable to admit to feeling judgmental, of myself and/or of others.

It helps to remind myself that I’ve grown–I’m experiencing these feelings from a perspective never before possible for me.

In other words, it’s okay to be where I am today. It’s merely my opportunity to embrace what I see in the mirror, and to appreciate the people who show it to me.

What are your mirrors showing lately? How do you handle it?


Photo credit (mirror): Elizabeth/Table4Five

New things: Calling in to a radio show


Have you ever phoned in to a radio show or podcast? As of today, I have.

The show in question was about Human Design, a self-discovery tool I’d heard about last year listening to Benjamin Bernstein’s wonderful “This Week In Astrology” podcast. After that show, I’d emailed his guest, Hal Bahr, for a copy of my Human Design chart.

That action put me on Hal’s email list and I learned he’d be on a show with Kim Gould. The show date came and went. I’d forgotten it. Oh, well, I thought, it must not have been important for me to hear it.

Second chances wear funny clothes

Yesterday, I heard the original show date had been scrapped due to technical problems, and they’d try again today. Seemed the Universe wasn’t done with me.

I called and voila, I was on air. They were charming and helpful. I took notes, said thank you and that was that.

Short version of what I learned from the hosts: Mars and Venus occupy the same spot in my Human Design, but unsurprisingly, they express it very differently. For my Mars, different = dangerous. By contrast, my Venus maintains a fearless trust in a greater unanimity and an ability to find value in apparent differences.

I trust her to soothe my Mars as I fling myself into my 50 New Things in my 50th Year adventure.

[Awhile back, I announced my intention to celebrate my 50th birthday year by trying 50 new things. This post contributes to my chronicle of some of those new things.]


Photo credit: curtis.kennington

50 Days to 50!


Approximately 50 days from today, I’ll celebrate my 50th birthday. Heck, I plan to celebrate all year long!

I’ll try 50 new things

Mid-century seems prime time for new scenery, new experiences, new friends, new attitudes. I want to stoke the fires of my curiosity, creativity and appreciation. I’d love your company on this journey, and right now, I need your help.

To try 50 new things in one calendar year, that’s almost one a week! I need ideas both big and small.

Help me brainstorm the 50 things! Send me your suggestions, your recipes, your band recommendations, your craft patterns, your resource links, your secret dreams. If you want to join me and share the experience, let me know. I love company.

Please leave a comment/send an email

Share your ideas as comments on this post, or email me through the contact form on my Connect page. Tell your friends. Ask your family members. Poll your coworkers. If it’s legal, I’ll consider it.

Thank you!


Photo credit: wilhei55