“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” It was more than two decades ago that I came across this quote by French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, and I instinctively knew that what he was saying was true. Even back then I was very attracted to the idea of sitting quietly and letting the treasures of silence school me, inspire me, heal me, and yet I was not even close to being able to sit in that room … all by myself … no distractions … alone. I couldn’t even imagine enduring prolonged periods of time without any kind of outer stimulation, and having a real fear of boredom and isolation, I thought that it would be akin to torture. Now, so many years later, I have taken the leap into this quiet place and though I’m only in early days of practice, I am already feeling a sense of the extraordinary; the silence has revealed that sense to be not of something that lay outside of myself, but of the power of the extraordinary that permeates my entire being.
I set upon my journey of sitting quietly, alone in a room directly after listening to a talk by transformational teacher/comedian, Kyle Cease. He spoke of how he sits two or three, or more hours daily, quietly with no distractions and how it has been life changing for him. So here it was, the message presented to me yet again, and again I’m very attracted and intrigued by it. I had, however, become accustomed to filling up every quiet space in my life with something, anything, be it snacking, napping, watching television, looking at social media, listening to YouTube seminars, or many of those all at the same time; that’s how averse I’d become to the silence and solitude. I had meditated off and on for a few years, but it was always a discipline to do so; I never looked forward to it. What Kyle was suggesting felt a bit different to me than meditation, not so formal; I sensed a freedom in it and I knew that many treasures and answers awaited me in the silence, and so I wanted to try; with every fibre of my being I wanted to sit quietly, alone in a room.
This is a short account of my journey into the silence so far. I decided I would incrementally work up the time that I devote to this practice. I began at one hour and forty five minutes. To me that seemed like such an unimaginably long period of time to be in silence that I realized that it was completely futile to even consider or ponder the time as I sat. And so I began. I applied no formal rules, I started in the meditation position and if at any point I wanted to stretch my legs out or move to a chair for awhile, I did so. I kept my eyes mostly shut, but if I felt like it I’d open them. I rode the waves of drowsiness that would sometimes sweep over me. Whatever came up to be felt, I felt. I let my thoughts come and go, being conscientious not to get lost in them, but if and when I did, I did my best to disengage and let them move on through. To my surprise my first session went relatively quickly and was pretty painless. And so, on to day 2.
Day 2: Same guideline – forget about time. My day two practice was total frustration almost the whole time time. I felt anger over having to sit there in a little physical discomfort, having just eaten too much. I was feeling anger in general, really, but refused to look at the time or to stop … and then it was over. Thank god!!
Day 3: I’d raised the time to two hours now. I had a mental parameter for this session; it was a quote from Rumi that set this parameter – “Beyond good or bad, right or wrong, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.” I mentally placed myself within that field. As I sat in the field of silence and recollections that produced guilt arose, I remembered that in that space there is no judgement and then the thoughts would just disintegrate without me pushing them away. When I would ponder whether I’m even doing this silence thing properly, I accepted that this space is beyond right and wrong ways of doing things. Even when I fell into thinking of things I wanted to say to someone, I realized that the space I’m in is even beyond scripting and then those thoughts too would fall away. When I would catch myself planning my future, or even my next meal, I reminded myself that there is no need to manage or arrange here. And, when I began fretting as to whether my silent intermissions were going to get me anywhere, these thoughts too evaporated as I released into this space all that preoccupies my mind; in this field I could rest and trust and allow the silence to work its wonders. And finally, when I got lost in past or future thinking, I remembered this field is a place of no time, it is beyond notions of past and future; in its Presence they don’t exist, there is only me, being.
Some time has gone by since I’ve started this practice, many sessions now lasting around three hours. I have discovered that when I concentrate on it, my breath takes me into a quiet place, and so I follow my breath into that still and inner realm. I have a sense that its desire is to eventually lead me on an adventure into a primordial silence from which all things extraordinary emerge, from where Life, itself, springs forth. My whole life I’ve tried to outrun the silence and the feeling of isolation that I feared would come with it, only to find it, again and again, creeping back into my reality in different ways and circumstance, but now with this practice, rather than resisting, I am finally inviting the silence in, befriending and loving it, and as a result, I am discovering the many gifts that it has been saving for me.
I’m seeing that silence and solitude are, in and of themselves, gifts, and they are gifts that keep on giving. Life has offered me these gifts many times, laying upon me circumstances of solitude starting at a very young age; solitude has actually been a repeating theme that has continually circled back again and again in my life. Never really wanting to be alone with myself during these times, I filled up the time and space with many distractions. Not understanding the true purpose of relationships, I would often pursue ones of little meaning, quality, or common ground, trying to create something out of virtually nothing, so as not to be alone. I filled up the empty space with endless television watching; for a few years I smoked heavily in attempts to fill the void I felt. It has taken my whole life thus far to get me to answer the beckoning of the silence and solitude, and to accept the gift that Life has persistently presented to me. I’m so glad that Life never ceased its offering because in finally accepting my current situation of solitude, I am finally using it to truly be with myself; this is my time to know myself, be with myself in a concentrated manner, pose questions and wait upon their answers, and to amass appreciation for myself. The biggest and I’d say the best gift the silence has given me is an awareness that the true gift that I’ve been given is that of my Self. My very being, in all of its aspects, is a profound gift and to be able to spend focussed, quality time unwrapping and savouring it is both an honour and a privilege of a lifetime!
I have unavoidably missed some days in spending time in solitude and silence with myself, but I’m not afraid that I will fall out of the habit like I’ve done with different practices I’ve tried over the years, because unlike them, I so look forward to my time with the silence now. I’m not implying that every time is all great, far from it; it can be frustrating, long suffering, and many times my mind is all over the place yet, no matter how chaotic it can sometimes feel, I know that there is something profound transpiring within me when I surrender to the silence. Each session is different, so I hold no expectations going in, however, I can’t help but to anticipate the energies of joy, wisdom, and healing at work and play, cleansing and creating within me an ever fresh and perpetually expansive me. I am already feeling more enlivened by the day as they strip away all that is not true, allowing my pure, free, and unconditional beingness to shine bright!
Our problems stem from an inability to be in the silence with ourselves. When I stopped avoiding being with myself … quietly … alone … in a room, when I took the leap into this solitary place, I found it to be a place where many treasures are lain, a place to truly come to know, appreciate, and savour myself. I invite you to take the leap too. There are no rules but to let go and Be. There is no judgment or need to strive, only rest and trust; there is no past or future, only Being Present. It is time to delight in the joy, wisdom, and healing that abides within your space of stillness, for they will strip away all that dims your light. Make space in your life for the silence and you have a chance to connect with the profound, to connect with your true, free, and unconditional being. Sit quietly … alone … in a room and discover the power of the extraordinary that is YourSelf!