Tag: quiet

Not Talking Is Not Silence

Not Talking Is Not Silence


I have been mostly silent much of my life. As an introvert who grew up in a family who couldn’t hear me and in a world who didn’t understand me, silence came naturally to me. Words didn’t form easily or readily no matter how much I willed them to. I tried with everything I had and everything I knew to speak into the world I lived, but the silence that befell me was both deafening and defeating. I found it more unbearable to speak and not be heard than to not speak at all.

This silence was anything but silent. The noise within me was a cacophony of sounds. There was the screaming cry of anguish. There was clanging and banging of anger and frustration. There were the many words that came to my mind that remained stuck there running in circles trying to drown out one another. There were loud torrents of retribution and shame, rivers of despair, waves of excitement, deep longings for release, passionate hope, unrelenting belief and a desperate commitment to love.

I had an English teacher, in eleventh grade I think, who once wrote on one of my homework assignments, “I see and sense that you have much to say. Why don’t you speak?” He was a progressive, late 60’s kind of English teacher who was more of a philosopher than a literature instructor. He engaged the class everyday on the pressing issues of the day. He dug behind our preconceptions, prodded us to think beyond the typical rhetoric and to express our deepest beliefs. I loved listening to the banter and back and forth in the classroom. I was surrounded by bright, verbal peers who were fired up about Viet Nam and who were passionate about freedom, peace, human rights, and equality. I had thoughts. Many of them. But I remained silent, often hating myself because I did so, feeling deep shame because I could not stand up to the test of the debate.

My silence has been both a curse and a blessing. It becomes less of a curse and more of a blessing as time goes on and have learn to accept myself and my true nature. I am also less silent for sure as added years often release even the most reluctant speakers.  Not speaking has taught me to listen. It has taught me to watch and wait. It has taught me patience. It has taught me to look for answers within myself. Not talking has helped me discover the meaning of true silence in a world that prefers to talk itself into the ground. I respect silence now, when once I cursed it. I have reverence for the quietude that all of us are capable of and wherein lies our deepest truth and strength.

I  posted something controversial on my Facebook page a couple of days ago and suddenly my page was buried in words and rhetoric. I weeded through the dialogue trying to pick out what was helpful to the debate, there was so much that was not. Anger, name calling, defensive behavior, posturing, fear, hurt feelings. In the end there was no meeting of the minds, no common ground to be found, no gains in understanding, just words spread across a page. Very little listening took place. It seems this way of settling issues in our country has become the norm. Would that everyone would just be silent and take action instead; do what one’s heart calls one to do; no conversation is really needed or necessary to go where our inner guide leads.

Conversation and dialogue over issues facing us stirs the pot. It keeps us thinking about things. It also confuses and angers us. It muddies the water. It diverts our attention from the truth. It spreads a cloud so thick that other options can’t be found. Like silence, it is a blessing and a curse. When it comes to silence, however, Caroline Myss gives us something to work toward, something to aspire to, a place within us that is a treasure to be found. I still usually choose silence during debates. I choose to listen, reflect, weed through and weigh and measure the words of others against my own heart. In the end, acting from our own conscience and heart is what we are meant to do.

If you are an introvert I highly recommend Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – for current research and a rich understanding of the nature of introversion.


Listen to the Silence

Listen to the Silence

Found on something-everything-nothing.tumblr.com
Found on something-everything-nothing.tumblr.com

Winter weather has descended on many of us in full force in recent weeks. My brother called from New Hampshire to assure me that while yes, he is buried in snow, he is surviving. That’s what they do in New England!  At that point, the total was 96 inches. Yikes! We’ve lived in the south for close to twenty years and while it’s not uncommon for us to be turning on the air conditioning when he’s pulling out his snow shovel, this year the heat has run pretty much non-stop. That was until our heat pump decided it was tired.  The silence was deafening and noticeable even before the temperature in the house began to plummet. If you have forced air heat, like we do, you know what I mean!

True silence is hard to come by these days. I don’t know about you, but when a background noise like our heat stops, my whole body heaves a sigh of relief. It’s a reminder to me of how much stress can be created by sound.  The sensation of our bodies relaxing is their way of saying, “Thank you. I really need the quiet.” Silence feeds us. External noise, especially extraneous sounds that are not particularly pleasing, is a stressor that can zap our energy.

There’s another kind of background noise, and that’s the running commentary that chips away at our self-confidence throughout the course of each day.  It’s often a very unconscious dialogue, but it’s there nonetheless. I’m talking about those thoughts and comments to ourselves  that are less than kind.  I’ll give you an example, though it may not be necessary. You walk into a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee on your way to work. There’s a line at the counter and you’re running late. Your inner conversation may be something like, “I should have gotten up earlier. I’m already late, I should just go. But, I really want coffee. I stayed up too late. I should have gone to bed earlier. God, I wish I wasn’t so old. I wish I had more energy. I wish I looked like that woman there looks. I bet she isn’t going to be late for work.” You know what I mean, right?

In order to turn off, or turn down, the noise in our lives, internal or external, we first have to become aware of it. Occasionally we receive a free reminder when circumstances occur like our heater breaking. At other times it is necessary to be pro-active, to take specific steps to create a quieter world.

I have begun to turn off my phone and simply check it periodically for missed calls. Not everyone is happy about that, but it’s the best way I know how to downgrade my stress level and to create the quiet I need. How can you create a quieter world for yourself?

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it.

It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”

Chaim Potok






QUIET by Susan Cain

QUIET by Susan Cain

Browsing through  the audio books on one of my favorite websites, Audible.com, I was drawn to a book called Quiet, by Susan Cain. The title caught my attention, but it was the subtitle that hooked me: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. An introvert through and through, I knew I had to read this book and I am so glad I did. Quiet is a revolutionary work that has garnered attention and respect in ever-widening circles.  To me, it is just one more example of the growing understanding of how the mind works and the alchemy that is taking place globally between the body, mind and spirit.

Throughout my life, I, like most other introverts, endured society’s persistent pressure to change, to be something other than I am. The most essential characteristics that made me, me, were of little interest or value to the world in which I lived. As I listened to Susan Cain’s thoughts and discoveries, I could feel my body relax, my mind ease, and my spirit lift. It’s seems that I am not the only one whose well-intentioned parents pushed them into social situations where they were destined to fail or feel inadequate; or the teen hovering on the periphery of social acceptability, only to be labeled “stuck up” by those who didn’t understand the fear I lived with every day. Others also struggled to succeed and excel in academics and the work place, those who were not gregarious enough to be noticed and thought to be unintelligent as a result.

I worked every day to be different from the way I was, seeking careers that did not suit me, wondering all the while why I was miserable.  I eventually gave up the battle, but not the war. That is, until I read Quiet and through sharing in the author’s own experience and research I was able at last to value the person that I truly am.

 Susan Cain’s explanation of the science behind the introvert/extrovert dichotomy is fascinating. Her explanation of our culture’s obsession with extroversion allows the introvert to see themselves in a very different light. I have recommended this book to more people than almost any other book, as I discover how many incredible people are closet introverts. I know everyone does not enjoy reading non-fiction as much as I do, so rather than simply write a review, I thought I’d go through Quiet here and highlight some of the salient points. Perhaps that will be enough for you. If not, I hope you’ll read the book. It’s available in paperback and on audio. Stay tuned for subsequent posts.


Quiet ~ Just a Small Dose Can Make a Difference

Quiet ~ Just a Small Dose Can Make a Difference

Photo by D. Sander

It is so easy to wander away from our dreams. Everywhere we go, there are enticing diversions calling for our attention. I can’t help but wonder why it is so difficult to stay focused on what we know is good and right and true…for ourselves. Perhaps it’s the result of a lifetime of living up to everyone else’s expectations and demands. It’s so easy to tune out our own desires when the world around us clamors for attention. Now, later in life, when those demands have quieted we may find ourselves disconnected from our inner voice, at least the one that tells us how to live our dreams. Chances are we just no longer recognize the still, small voice that is us, if we ever did. Now is the time. It is time to tune in, time to connect with our deepest selves and time to let it take us where it leads.

Most of us have the time we need now to develop a daily practice of tuning in. A few well-developed practices will strengthen the muscle of attention that will keep you connected to yourself. You are still there. It’s just a matter of reconnecting. These practices will reawaken your ability to tune in to yourself so that you can hear, once again, your true voice. They will help you come home if you’re feeling lost.


Quiet is the balm that soothes for some and a terrifying void for others. But no matter where you are on the continuum, it is okay. Just begin. Begin to add a small dose of quiet to your day. Every day. Whether it is five minutes in the car after you’ve turned the engine off and before you’ve opened the door, or while sitting alone on your back deck in the sun, find a time and a place and breathe. Breathe in the stillness. Breathe in the clarity of quiet. Connect with whatever it is that feels like the center of your being. Then build on this every day. Add five more minutes, or ten until you are comfortable and connected with that which you already know is the still small voice within.


Take in the beauty around you. If there is none, find some. Dwell on a beautiful flower, a masterful painting, a lyric in a poem, a melody that lifts your spirits. Absorb beauty in all its magnificence and that we too often ignore. Replace the violence of the news with the lilt of Enya’s melodies. Assemble the most beautiful photos you can find and place them where you will see them often. Whenever possible seek beauty first.  The beauty that touches you is within you. If you feel moved to create, create something from the beauty that comes from within you. The act of creation connects us to ourselves and is the core of the dreams we’ve yet to uncover.


Rest deeply, fully, completely. Stop the forward motion of your mind and body. Put aside that one more thing that you think you must do and rest.  Sleep if that is what comes. Sit. Read. Listen. Turn down the volume of your thoughts in any way you can. Busy your hands with needle work if you must, but make sure that what you are doing with your hands is beautiful and creative. If you can go away from your day-to-day demands to a place that nurtures your soul ~ the beach, a mountain-side cabin, a library or bookstore. For an hour, a day or a week, whatever you can manage, whatever the deep fatigue and disconnect within you requires. You will know. Turn off the demands and rest.


Begin today in whatever way you can to connect to you and the creative spirit that is your life force. Step by step, moment by moment be still and rest in the beauty that is you.