I just returned from a walk by myself. It’s rare that I’m alone these days; between my kids, my husband, and work, I’m constantly in contact with someone. But the day felt long and when my husband wrapped up his work, I told him I needed to get outside and walk alone. He took the boys into their room and I grabbed my cell phone and left.
My first instinct was to call someone. But I denied it, then laughed at myself; here I am, craving time alone, and I almost broke my silence to call a friend. Within moments, I could feel the benefits of silence and solitude entering me. I could hear my breath. I noticed the Rocky Mountains jutting up behind the silouette of winter trees and houses. I reveled in the sunlit puffy clouds painting the sky. All of this would have been lost had I filled in the empty space with words.
Our culture likes to fill the emptiness, now more than ever with the ever-increasing number of handheld gadgets that can consume our lives. When my clients are struggling with anxiety during the wedding or parenthood transitions, I encourage them to take some time each day to sit and allow their feelings to emerge. When I work with someone who’s in the midst of a move or going through a divorce, I offer the same suggestion. I realize how easy it is to distract against the difficult feelings with the noise of legal paperwork or the busyness of packing boxes. But eventually, when the wedding or the move or the divorce is over, the covered-up feelings will rage up with a vengeance. The time for some silence each day now. I often think of my grandpa who once said to me as we got into his car, “I just like to crack the window open and drive in silence. I don’t need the radio on.” If only he knew how many devices and distractions fill our cars these days!
Nothing new is born from busyness, noise, and distractions. When my clients call for counseling during their engagement or after becoming a parent, they’re often calling from the trenches of the liminal phase. The liminal – or in-between zone (see article on Home Page called “A Overview of Transitions” for a more thorough explanation of this word) – is defined as a no man’s land, a nothing zone between two important states of something. It’s an unsettling place to be and causes us to feel out of control. From this state of inner frenzy, we often reach externally to try to find solid ground. That’s when the next phone call to yet another florist occurs. The liminal stage is the neutral zone, and just when it feels like nothing is good will come from it, when we slow down enough, something does.
When we allow for silence and stillness, we honor the feminine. (By feminine I mean the energy of “being” that lives in both men and women.) The feminine is an energetic principle that is sorely lacking in our culture, and in most of the world, so when we invite this principle into our lives, we’re actually working not only on the personal level but on the global and spiritual as well. The invitation to sink down into the feminine emerges powerfully during transitions, as does the counterpoint energy of doing and achieving. It takes immense amounts of consciousness to resist slipping into the habitual masculine way and instead slow down, or stop altogether, and spend time in silence. Walking through a transition consciously is good and important work all around.
How much I would have missed had I flipped open my cell phone and filled my precious silence with words! The sound of my breath, the sights of the natural beauty that surrounds me, the random rabbit hopping across my path, and, finally, the words of this post that arose from the empty space from which new things are born.