Why Bother To Cultivate Silence?

Why Bother To Cultivate Silence?

I am fortunate. I have a habit of waking up at 3:00 a.m. without an alarm clock. This early hour is my favorite time of day. Everything is still and relatively quiet in my neighborhood. Even the birds are silent. They don’t start singing their songs until around 3:30 in the morning. This practice of waking up early and peeling myself out of bed in order to sit in quiet, ensures a noiseless beginning to my day. And when I begin the day calmly and quietly, I am more likely to stay that way, even as the hours give way to the momentum of business and noise.  

Exposure to Quiet 

Years ago, I was introduced to the actual practice of sitting in silence when I attended a silent retreat with a friend at a monastery. Pulling into the parking lot of the abbey, and then stepping out of the car, silence greeted and welcomed me. It was everywhere. It permeated the air, surrounding, surprising and delighting me all at once. It only took a few days for me to become hooked, so to speak, on the beauty and power of silence. I noticed how the sisters at the monastery not only practiced quiet contemplation, but talked, walked and ate in a quiet and composed manner. They laughed, watched television and had occasional squabbles too, all the while maintaining even-temperedness, peace, and a self-controlled presence.  

After my first visit to the monastery, I went back as often as possible. I didn’t wait for an official retreat; instead, I scheduled times to get away and be silent with myself. At first, my husband worried I might be tempted to join the cloister. I assured him that I liked being married and that I knew celibacy was not my calling. I just needed to go to the abbey so I could practice how to live more quietly. Now though, I don’t have to go away to find that quiet. Instead, I just have to peel myself out of bed at an early hour each day and sit.  

Sitting in silence, like any other discipline, takes regular practice. And the more it is practiced, the more beneficial it becomes. While sitting in silence, everything inside of me has a chance to slow down. Sitting still, I can focus on breathing deeper breaths. 

Being quiet calms the mind. In those soundless ten to twenty minutes that I sit, my awareness increases so that I can hear myself think. In the early hour of 3:00 a.m. when cars, trains, planes and even the neighborhood dogs are mute, it is almost easy to let the unnecessary thoughts drop by the wayside. Without noise, natural restoration takes place. Then, as the hours of any day give way to the momentum of business and clamor, my body and mind can recall and tap into that even-temperedness, peace, and self-control that I started with.   

Why bother to cultivate silence? It is worth the practice because then it becomes a habit.

Why Bother To Stick To Your Resolves in January?

Why Bother To Stick To Your Resolves in January? 

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, the name January originates from the ancient Roman god named Janus. In Roman mythology, Janus is depicted as a man with two faces looking in opposite directions; to what is behind him and to what is ahead of him. He was the god of gates and doorways, of beginnings, and the rising and setting of suns.   

January is also commonly associated with particular words such as recap, resolutions and retrospection. It is more common for people to set new goals in January than any other month since it represents the beginning of a new year.

The Devil’s Advocate

But for me, January plays the devil’s advocate to hold true to the old intentions I’ve had in place for years; to keep my body moving, look on the bright side, drink more water than wine and eat more vegetables than chocolate. But when I look ahead to the next thirty-one days of this month I have to ask myself as I do every January; do I have what it takes to maintain my course during the hardest and least favorite month of the year? 

The weather alone makes me want to take shelter inside. Unlike the other states I’ve lived in, Nebraska, South Dakota and Colorado, it rains in northern Idaho in January. Then slush, a mixture that resembles wet cement, forms. It is difficult enough to drive through let alone run in. 

Back when I made that decision to keep my body moving, I started the habit of jogging. Over the years, even though my running has turned into more of a plod, I keep it up anyway because I know it is more beneficial than returning to my previous habit of not running. 

Yet, every January, my running/plodding gets challenged by the slush in my path. Just looking at the slop can make me turn tail and head back home. But I don’t because I know that if I don’t make myself get out there and run, then January beats my resolve. Besides, if I can run through January, I can run through any other month of the year. 

Shrouded in Fog

January is also the darkest month of the year here in the Northwest. Clouds hover over the hills limiting the view. The sun as well as the stars stay hidden behind a continual mist of gray. It is hard to be happy under this constant shroud of fog. But, since I cannot hibernate until spring, I peel myself out of bed early every morning to practice contemplative prayer and yoga before breakfast. 

These two habits replaced shutting off the alarm, rolling over and going back to sleep. And even though January tempts me to revert back to my old ways, I don’t let those thoughts linger for long. I know it’s best not to give in to the temptation of pulling the blankets over my head.  

The practice of contemplation keeps my mind from running away with anxious thoughts while my yoga strengthens every limb in my body. Then I have the stamina to move through whatever the rest of the day holds; slop, slush, rain or gloom. Keeping good ol habits in place, even in January, gives one satisfaction. I know I am better for doing them than for not. 

January can definitely throw a weighty and wet blanket over any of our best resolutions made for the new year; read more, watch T.V. less, go to bed earlier instead of staying up so late, hike more or start a gratitude journal, listen more, talk less to name a few. 

But why bother to stick to what you’ve resolved to do, especially in January? It is worth it because even though January may feel like a big bully trying to keep us from doing the right thing, it only has thirty-one days to do so. After that, poof! It’s gone.  Secondly, January tests us like no other month and if we can sustain our resolve in January, the other months will be a breeze. Let’s stay resolved!