Restorative Silence

There is something powerful in hearing nothing


The first time I took a yoga class was really early in the morning. I remember dragging myself to the little room in the gym and going through all of these movement. Then, at the end, I remember Savasana, or corpse pose, feeling like all the stress I had accumulated was drained out of my body. In that moment, I felt so relieved. I felt like I had slept for hours instead of the minutes of calmness. Silence, it appears, could restore my equilibrium. That was weird to me because I have always been afraid of silence. I tend to fill up spaces with sounds. I even talk out loud to myself if I feel like a space is too silent.

In the past  few week though I have been craving silence. It started with my morning walk to the train station. I tend to leave my house early in the still morning to walk to train station. At that time, there are not a lot of cars or people moving around. It is usually really quiet. I normally would have my earphones on and listen to music really loud. Recently though I have been walking in silence. At first, it was because I felt like I needed that time to think about how I wanted my day to go. To visual the many steps and goals for the day.

This meditative walk turned into taking the train to work without playing music. The train has a rhythm of its own I have discovered. It is the way the train rolls on the rail and takes the curves in the way. It is in the beep on public announcement system. It is the voice of the conductor announcing the upcoming stations. It is all just one sound outside my head. Soon, without music, that rhythm disappears and becomes silence. I find myself getting lost in my own thoughts instead of the beats pumping into my head. On my day off, I usually spend a considerable amount of time in the kitchen playing music. In the past weeks, I have spent time in the kitchen, without music, just listening to the wind and the city moving about me.

Being in silence has had a centering effect on me. I feel like I am calmer because of it. I am not so hyped up. The one big thing it has done is allow me be able to hear better. I used to listen to my music so loud. A few days ago, I put my earphones on and I had to reduce the music to really low because I was not used to anything that loud. My phone calls have also gotten better because I am calm and able to hear better.

I am starting to think of this silent period as a sort of Savasana. I am after all the person who has always enjoyed Savasana, the last silent moment of yoga practice. There is something powerful about the restorative calm of hearing nothing and being turned inward.

*If you feel like you could use some calm, try practicing Savasana. The Yoga journal has a whole article on getting into Savasana  and its benefits here.

The Guilt of No

Saying Maybe Delays the Guilt. Say NoI was a consumer behavior researcher, for a hot minute during my graduate school days. My research work dealt with the relationship between intention and behavior. One of the most important things I learned is that intention precedes behavior. Intention, for the most part, is within the full control of a person. Behavior is influenced by a series of factors that are not necessarily within the full control of a person.

Understanding and acknowledging the relationship between intention and behavior is an important part of living a guilt-free life, in my opinion. Sometimes we intend to help but we are unable to help. By understanding that which is beyond our control, we are able to let go of the guilt of being unable. I am reminded of this a lot when I volunteer on Mondays. This past Monday I was leading the shift when an older couple came in. Neither one of them could have been younger than 80. They were both almost frail but sort of full of life. They had stopped at the office to see how they could help.

There are many ways you can help a campaign. Not everyone is able to do everything. The older couple that came in were unable to help much because neither one of them couple could complete basic tasks on the computer. They both felt so guilty and kept apologizing. I kept trying to reassure them that their intention in coming to help was much more important than the fact they were unable to help. The fact that we are using a computerized system is beyond their control. As such, they shouldn’t feel guilty.

Personally, as much as I intend to help the campaign, I can’t do everything. Sometimes, I can’t do anything. Sometimes, I am unable to volunteer for more than 3 hours at a time. Sometimes, I feel guilty about leaving people behind and going home. I know this guilt is irrational. One of the things that I am working on is letting go of irrational guilt.

I have started spending a lot of time thinking about my intentions. What am I intending to do when I go to work in the morning? I intend to help customers have a wonderful shopping experience. However, if a customer asks me to answer a question and I am unable to answer it, does that mean I have failed for the day? No, it means that the question is beyond my volitional control as such I am unable to follow through on my intention.

By focusing on my intention, I have also been able to recognize my limitations. Yes, I would like to help. But, no, I am unable to help. I am learning how to say “no.” In the past, I would edge my bet and say “maybe.” Saying “maybe”was a way of not having to acknowledge my limitations. But “maybe” really was a way of delaying the guilt. Now, I am honest. I say “no.” By saying “no,” I set myself free and I am able to do the best of that which I can.