Silence is the container out of which your intuition can reveal herself. When your mind’s racing, when the music is blaring, or when a garbage truck is barreling down the street, it’s very hard to hear the subtle promptings of your inner wisdom. In a world where each moment can easily be filled with making phone calls, checking email, or sending text messages, short periods and, eventually, longer stretches of silence are imperative for cultivating a rich inner world.
Each winter during my annual women’s retreat I inform students during our opening circle that we will observe silence every day from 9:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. and that for the duration of the retreat they are requested to relinquish their reading materials, stay off their computers and cell phones, and keep the TV and DVD players off. Although they’ve been told about this beforehand, I can still see the color drain from their faces when I share the morbid news! I know, I know: it can be terrifying to strip away the things that keep us busy and to face what’s inside us. Open space is scary, and we want to fill it to find comfort. But once people actually do clear away distractions, they learn to fall in love with silence and spaciousness.
Silence recharges your batteries by stripping away the excess sensory stimulation from the outside world. It provides a container in which you can hear the voice of your soul. It’s the medicine that most of the world needs right now — and fears.
Here are some ways to bring more sacred silence into your life:
• Spend the early-morning hours — until after breakfast — in silence. Don’t check email, and turn off the ringer on your phone (and/or turn off your cell phone). If you live with others, get them on board, and practice relating to one another in a different way — through loving touch, notes, and glances.
• Eat one meal a day alone — without reading, listening to music, surfing the Web, or watching TV. If you have children, do it once a week or every other day. Alternatively, have a solo breakfast or lunch when the kids are at school or napping.
• Go on a technology fast one day a week. Stay away from your phone, computer, TV, iPod, even any sort of reading materials. Spend time outside, get out your art supplies, take a yoga class. Go for a bike ride, or have a picnic with your family. Sit outside and do absolutely nothing.
• Go on a silent retreat at least once a year.
• Have a silent retreat at home for one hour, half a day, a full day, or a weekend (I’ll give you instructions on how to do this in parts 2 to 5).
• Set your phone so that calls automatically go to voice mail. Then choose when you want to call people back.
Ultimately silence becomes a serene stillness that you carry inside you — even as you cross the street in Times Square.
Sara Avant Stover is the author of The Way of the Happy Women: Living the Best Year of Your Life (New World Library) and a teacher and mentor to women around the world on wellness, spirituality and lifestyle. Steward of her own bliss, she’s truly happy some days and fakes it ‘til she makes it on others. Visit her online at www.TheWayoftheHappyWoman.com
Excerpted from the book The Way of the Happy Woman © 2011 by Sara Avant Stover. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com
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