I had simple yet profound experience the other day that I want to share.
It had been what I felt was a fairly relaxed day. That meant that I had an hour or two in which I didn’t have a specific task or goal to accomplish. This is on one of my “days off” mind you. My weeks had been very busy, with hardly a moment to rest, but I was getting stuff done. So even just that brief time with no deadline hovering over me felt like a break. And even then, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about what needed to be done next.
Towards the end of the day, I had a decision to make. I was volunteering at Church and the group was going to Mass. I had been that morning with my family, so I didn’t need to go again. I could go again anyways with the community or I could take some quiet time in prayer solo at a small chapel on the Church’s campus. After some deliberation, I went to the chapel.
I was only there for about 5 minutes when a surreal feeling crept over me. It took a moment to put my finger on it, and then it hit me. The chapel was SILENT. I was the only one there, my phone was off, and there wasn’t even the hum of electricity. As I sat I realized that I literally could not remember the last time I had experienced silence.
I’m constantly surrounded by noise. I work a lot, I have a wife and kids, and in this day and age there is always something making sounds in the background, even if it’s just the whirring of a computer. So much of it gets tuned out, but tuned out isn’t gone. Actual silence is a whole different thing, and it hit me like cool water on a burn.
Sitting in actual silence, my mind was able to reach a level of peace I had not experienced in a long time. And in that state I was able to listen to my heart and my gut, to reflect, in ways that simply aren’t possible in a noisy setting. Thoughts and questions that just got brushed aside or drowned out on a daily basis began to surface. Questions like:
-Are you happy?
-Are you where you want to be?
-Where are you headed and do you really want to get there?
-Has your time and effort, and the direction you put them, given you the results you want?
-Are your actions serving your purpose in life or distracting you from it?
I had gotten so busy that while I was thinking about what to do and how to do it the most important questions had been lost. It’s one thing to take action, quite another to know whether it was the right one.
I often fall into the trap of assuming effort = achievement. I just assume that since I am busy and things are getting done, therefore I am making progress. That is not always the case. Sometimes I work and work and at the end I’m not actually any closer to my dreams. My efforts were misdirected. If I took more time in silent reflection I could avoid that. My efforts would become much more efficient and focused on what really matters.
It’s easy to think that there’s no time to just be quiet and sit, that there is simply too much to be done. That’s another trap I regularly find myself in. It’s simply not true. Because half of what I think needs to be done is not really that important. I find that I have more time after taking a time-out, not less.
I left that chapel feeling refreshed, rested, and focused. I learned that I cannot afford to go so long without silence again. I need that time to slow down, relax, and listen to myself. I need it to keep me on target amidst the many distractions of the world. I need it to keep refreshed.
I hope you find a time for silence this week, even just 20 minutes. You’ll be glad you did.