We are saturated in noise. Incessant messaging competes for our attention, and our culture seeks opportunities to fill the quiet. The last time I walked through the mall, each store pumped out an anthem, while elevator music blared overhead. A recent visit to the airport terminal included dueling news stations at every gate, pounding machinery, overhead announcements, and conversations at a dull roar, as people struggled to speak, and to be heard. I’ve taken to wearing earplugs when I travel, just to survive being an introvert in a very loud world.
Our brains are processing a vast amount of information and auditory input; it feels so strange to turn it off. The quiet can seem unnatural, and even painful. It helps explains this study done by the University of Virginia. When people were left alone with their own thoughts for 6-15 minutes, and instead had the option of distracting themselves with an electric shock, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict the shock on themselves.
And yet, when we are ready to become still, to usher in the quiet, sitting alone lets our biggest gifts surface, or can help us uncover our biggest wounds . Left alone with our silence, our wise inner voice can finally find a way out from behind the wall of resistance and speak its deepest yearnings. Long hidden rage may begin to bubble to the surface, or hot tears out of nowhere might threaten to spill out from our eyes. A giggle, or a release, sometimes laughter, sometimes pain. All of it ready to be owned, witnessed, held, then let go. And underneath, an abiding calm that resets our nervous system and refreshes our spirit.
Accepting and being willing to sit in my own meditation practice took almost 20 years. I remember the firm resistance I felt at the thought of being still. My anxious mind was far more interested in crossing items off a list. It was only after getting my heart broken wide open, that I was able to stop the whirling dervish of my spinning to see how beautiful and welcoming this silence can be.
Meditation can be a gift we give ourselves every day; it's such sweet medicine. This work of being still is indeed work. It's the continuous flexing of a muscle we are rarely taught to use as children. And yet, if we continue to practice, this quiet, subtle wisdom becomes a powerful tool and resource we can call upon in times of need. Meditation allows our weary spirit a safe and welcoming place to arrive as we are, without judgment, without a need to change. We just show up to sit with the beauty of our own authenticity, in all of its glory, divinity, light and shadow.