The (Scary) Sound of Silence

If you’re like most folks, you’re caught up in a perpetual tailspin.  A crammed diary filled with meeting after meeting with barely enough time to shove in a lukewarm sandwich in-between, or after school activities for the kids, school run, volunteer activities, endless lists of chores that only seem to get longer and longer. 

The first response to the question “How are you?” is typically something in the order of, “I’ve just been so busy!  There’s just never enough time to get everything done!” or my personal favorite “Frazzled!” 

Or maybe this is just the strange universe I hang out in.  Never having been one to jump on the bandwagon, folks often look confused when I don’t respond back in agreement.  I’ve often wondered if there is something wrong with me.

When I lived in the UK, making it into someone’s personal diary was a point of distinction, a barrier to be overcome, as spots in it were tightly guarded and highly coveted.  Brits in general, not being as spontaneous as their American cousins across the pond, tend to respond to the question of “when should we get together again,” with things like – “let me check my diary and get back to you.  The next three months are mad, just mad!” (Mind you, this could also be their subtle and polite way of blowing annoying Americans off, but typically we’re too stupid to notice this.)

But while we might, on the surface, spend a lot of time complaining about this busy thing, I’ve often wondered if deep down we secretly like it.  Perhaps being busy has become the new badge of honor, a justification for our existence.  If we are busy, we are doing something with our lives.  Our life must have some meaning, some deep purpose, something greater than taking out the trash and watching the next season of Ozarks on Netflix, thrilling though it may be.

I myself have even reveled in this practice from time to time, secretly gloating to myself that I have so many client engagements on my schedule that it would be impossible for me to meet with such and such person for the next couple of months.

Well, not anymore, thanks to Corona virus.

So here’s the question, in a life that’s filled with activity after activity, what do you do with yourself when the tailspin finally ends and sound of silence finally comes?

I mean, you can only rearrange your closet and shop on amazon so much. 

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day, who lives in Orange County, CA.  The eternal optimist, she mused that perhaps this might be a good opportunity for society to finally slow down, and smell the proverbial roses, so to speak. 

The eternal realist that I am reminded her that many of us (present company included) will most likely lose work, maybe even their jobs, and these days will be filled with worry and anxiety of what to do after the lock-down lifts. 

But the more I think about it, the more I do realize that maybe she’s on to something. 

But sitting in the quiet with ourselves is typically something that many of us go to great lengths to avoid.  I recall the one and only time I inadvertently signed up for a two-week meditation retreat, under the mistaken impression that the event was a learning workshop.  It was called a “datum” and having no idea what that word meant and too lazy to google it, I was horrified to find out that it consisted of 12 hours a day of meditating on a smelly mat.

After having counted every speck of dander on the dirty floor and making judgmental comments in my head about my fellow woo-woo meditators, by day 3 I was ready to claw my eyes out.  And then something really amazing happened.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, there was an amazing feeling of peace and calm that washed over me.  A serenity that is hard to describe, I’d never felt anything quite like it.

And haven’t since – It ended a day later, and there I was back on the smelly meditation mat.  And while I’ve never been crazy enough to sign up for another meditation retreat, it does beg the question, what lies on the other side of silence, if we are willing to sit with it?


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