“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.
I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning to the sound of silence. An absolute still household, despite there being six kids and a wife all at home. And while I love my family to death, this time of tranquility is one of absolute bliss for me.
I enjoyed my coffee, read a bit, got some writing done.
Then I headed out for an early morning 5 a.m. run in pure silence, without an iPod, busy traffic, or the busy-ness of humanity to disturb my peace. There was a full-to-nearly-bursting orange moon lighting the sky, the hush of the nearby ocean, and an inky blackness surrounding me, my running, and my thoughts.
This time of quietude is not only one of my favorite parts of my day, but has become an essential part of the day. It soothes the soul, quiets my inner beast, brings out the goodness in me, allows me to hear myself.
Having a time of stillness in your life can be similarly wonderful, if you don’t have it already. Let’s take a look at some ways to find quietude in your life and see how the sound of silence can allow your thoughts to emerge.
Now, I should note that you don’t need to be an early riser to find a time of silence during your day. It’s one of the options (as I’ll talk about below), but it’s only one option among many.
- Rise early. If your day is so busy that you just can’t find the time to be alone and to have stillness and silence, getting up a bit earlier can be a good solution for some people. It’s not for everyone — some people hate getting up early. I used to be one of those, but in recent years I’ve discovered a love for the early morning hours. Here’s how to wake earlier if you want to do that.
- Late nights. If you’re not into early mornings, late nights can be just as peaceful, when everyone’s asleep. Turn off the TV and get away from the computer. Find other ways to spend this golden time, in quiet.
- Get out into nature. Sometimes households and offices can be a bit noisy and chaotic. To escape the noise, get out into nature as much as possible. Find a park, or a trail in some woods. Go to the beach or a pond or a lake or a river — water is one of my favorite ways of finding peace in nature. Pay close attention to everything around you, instead of blocking it all out.
- Meditation. Many of you aren’t into meditation, and I totally get that — for years I dismissed it as “new agey” and not worthy of serious attention. But it doesn’t have to be anything complicated or difficult to understand. Try this very simple meditation: close your eyes (after reading the rest of this paragraph) and pay attention to your breathing. Notice your breath as it enters your body, and again as it goes out. Your mind will probably stray — that’s OK. Just pay attention to these thoughts, let them go without forcing them out, and gently return your attention to your breathing. Keep doing this for a minute or so. Gradually increase the time you do this as you practice. It’s nice to get into a comfortable position, but not so comfortable you fall asleep!
- Exercise. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, exercise is one of my favorite things to do during my time of silence. It can be anything: running, walking, biking, swimming, strength training, rowing. This exertion of energy helps release stress and gets the blood flowing to your brain — giving you some of the best thinking you’ll do all day.
- Take a break and take a walk. Every hour or two, take a break from working. Get away from the computer, and stretch. Then take a walk, to get the blood flowing. It’s fine to just walk around your office or building, but if you can get outside into the sunlight (or rain, as the case may be) and fresh air (or less-than-fresh air, as the case may also be), I find that to be helpful. Sure, it might not be all that quiet if you’re out in a busy street, but it’s better than being cooped up all day.
- Yoga. I will admit that I’m not into yoga, but I know some people who swear by it. I’ve tried it and enjoyed it, but it’s just not my thing. That said, I think it’s worth a try and it can be a great quiet-time exercise.
- Reading. One of my all-time favorite quiet-time activities! I love curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee when all is quiet, and losing myself inside the magical world of fiction. If you haven’t been reading as much as you’d like, finding some quiet time in the morning (or evening) can be a great way to work reading into your routine.
- Journaling. There’s something therapeutic about writing in a journal, and if you make it a daily habit, it can be one of the best things you do all day. It gives you a way to reflect on your life, on the things you’ve been doing and the things you want to do. It records your life so you can look back on it later. And it brings clarity to your thoughts in a way you might not find without writing. Blogging can be a great form of journaling.
- Bathing. I don’t get a chance to do this enough, but I love to take a nice long bath. That might not seem very manly, but I don’t care. It’s relaxing and enjoyable. Calgon, take me away!
- Massage. If you can afford it, it’s nice to go and get a paid massage now and then — Eva and I had numerous massages during our trip to Thailand, and they were wonderful. Quiet, relaxing, oh so pleasurable. Of course, you can do this the cheap (more positive term: frugal) way by exchanging massages with your significant other on, say, alternating days. Use massage oil and candles and relaxing music to create a great atmosphere.
- Museums, art galleries, libraries, gardens. If you live in a city, it can be hard to find zones of quietude. But they do exist. When I lived in San Francisco, for example, some of my favorite quiet places (besides parks and the beach) were the city’s libraries, museums, galleries, and private gardens. Find those places in your city and use them as oases.
- For those with kids. Many of these things can be difficult if you have kids to take care of — trust me, with six kids, I know the feeling. Some suggestions: take advantage of the early mornings or late evenings when they’re sleeping; exchange quiet times with your significant other so that one watches the kids while the other relaxes or exercises; trade kid-watching duty with a friend or relative; pay a babysitter for a short time each day; or find activities for your kids to do while you get your quiet time.
“Silence is a source of great strength.” - Lao Tzu