Standing on the trail, rolling hills of tall, dry, golden grass all around me, mountains in the distance, the world was so quiet that all I could hear was the soft sound of the blades slapping against each other as the wind pushed through them. It sounded like the ocean. Like what you hear when you press your ear against a conch shell. Occasionally the sound was punctuated by a car whizzing by on the nearby road, but then the car would pass and the quiet sound of blades of grass brushing against each other would fill all of the space around me again. I was hesitant to move. The sound of my sneakers against the rocks and dirt on the path would disrupt the pristineness of the moment.
Jogging home, I could hear the soft thud of my shoes on the path, the crunching and sliding of rocks underneath my shoes, birds chirping, and a crescendo of leaves and grass whenever a particularly strong gust of wind came along. I left my music off; I wanted to hear all of the small sounds.
Powering off and powering down.
Shutting off the news.
Leaving our phones at home.
Social media breaks.
Vacation and holidays.
Sabbaticals as a dream, if you could ever obtain or afford one…
They are all aimed at the same objective—giving our brains and souls space to process what we’ve learned, what we’ve experienced, how and who we are in the life that we are living. Chances for deeper thoughts, thoughts beyond survival. Chances for creativity. Chances for rest.
Our minds and worlds are filled, filled to the brim with work, social obligations, personal maintenance, non-stop news from every corner of the world, non-stop social interactions from every corner of the world. It’s not healthy. It’s replete with opportunities, but it’s also filled with distraction. It’s not focused or filtered in a way that helps us truly live our best lives. Instead, it actively works against us achieving that. How can you live your best life when chances to process it and think deeply about it are scant and infrequent? We instinctively know these moments are important and we value them even more in modern life because of their rarity.
We are all well-served when we start to question a life and world that doesn’t value and prioritize deep thought and reflection.
How could things be different?
Start with yourself. Shut something down. Turn something off. Shut something out. Make more space for you—to shine through, to expand, to grow, to learn, to heal, to imagine new realities into being.
Stillness can be helpful, silence can be restorative, but quiet is really what we crave. In quiet, there is room for movement—deliberate, thoughtful movement, instead of the reactive, thoughtless movement that so easily consumes our days. In quiet, there is room for growth, growth that noise crowds out. In quiet there is room for sound, sound that we can fully experience and appreciate when it’s not mixed in with a cacophony.
I treasure opportunities for quiet. And, lately, I have been fighting to elevate them in importance in my life. They have become increasingly important to me as the years have passed and quiet has become a less and less common feature of life.
Standing in the middle of an ocean (OK, maybe not the middle :)), showers, paddle boarding on a lake, wandering a path, leaving my phone at home, sitting in a park, being on a plane, social media breaks… all of these things help to restore me, but it can be difficult to remember to make space for them.
It requires deliberate effort to carve out space for quiet in a world where noise has become the default.
But—when you do take the time and effort, you feel it immediately. You start to become acquainted with the world in a different way. You see it differently, with greater clarity. You hear things you didn’t hear before. New thoughts come. Clutter starts to clear itself out. You see yourself more clearly. In doing less, you become more.