“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” – Ram Dass
Full disclosure: I 100% Googled this quote five seconds before writing this post. Yes, I know that’s technically cheating. But while this isn’t a phrase I’ve held close for very long, the events of the past few days have taught to deeply appreciate its meaning. As many of you may have read in last Friday’s post, I spent last weekend on a writers’ retreat with my school. It was a pretty small group (17 students plus 3 to 4 teachers), and we spent the whole weekend writing, reading, and simply being creative without the distractions of the outside world. As one might assume, this process involved a lot of silence.
Before this weekend, I thought I knew what “silence” was. All that time alone in my room, it was quiet and introspective enough, right? Um, wrong. During the retreat we had several hours-long writing/reading blocks, most of which were conducted in complete silence. We’re talking a bunch of teenagers in a small house with only the crackle of the fireplace for a soundtrack. It was bliss.
The thing about silence is that it frees up so much space in your brain. As the above quote drives home, the absence of external stimulation allows you to really tune into your own thoughts and energies. It’s as if someone finally gave you the keys to your own mind, and you’re exploring it all for the first time like “wow.”
Coming home from the retreat felt like emerging from a very deep sleep that leaves you both well-rested and tired at the same time. My hands were sore and my eyes were hazy, but my brain was still full of this creative energy that I’ve never experienced before. Even a few days later, I finding myself really driven to create stuff, from a new collage for my bulletin board to a series of essays and stories I started over the weekend. The only thing blocking me from doing all of this is exactly what I left behind on the retreat: screens and other excess stimuli. As a result, I’m trying to cutback on my time zoning out on the Internet or social media by reading more during the day, writing whenever I can (in a notebook, of course), and just generally embracing more silence. To be clear, this isn’t about swearing off technology and declaring 21st century living totally evil, but rather about embracing the creative tools I already have on hand. The result, I hope, will be work that I’m proud of, and maybe someday will share here, with all of you.
Have you ever had a radical run-in with the powers of silence? What was your experience like?