Over the years, in my own life and in talking with others, I’ve come to the realization that many people are walking around right now lamenting lives not lived. They’re stuck feeling like their life isn’t their own, yet are unsure how to fulfill that deeper desire. As if somehow, in some other dimension, they’re living a life they feel passionately connected to and thrilled about, but here and now, are mostly just tired, burned out and waiting for the weekend to arrive.
I remember those feelings too. In fact, it wasn’t until I was nearing 30 that the call to more blared so loudly in my ears I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Yet, I also remember not knowing how or where to start because it felt as though every time I tried to “find my inspiration,” or discover my passion, I came up short handed and more frustrated than before. There were many nights of resignation, wondering if these dreams I had in my head for contentment, happiness and joy were simply not meant for me, meant for someone else with more drive, more courage and more *go-get-em-ness. It wasn’t just that I hated all the jobs I tried out, had a long-term relationship that was falling a part or that I woke up every morning with a sense of unease and discontent, but more more the overwhelming feeling that there was something out there for me and I was just missing what it was – that I was disconnected from my purpose, my reason for being, and it felt awful.
"Like a loyal dog, the nagging, persistent desire for more continued to stick with me..."
So what did I do? What any normal, self-respecting adult would do – I numbed. Without a way to figure out what exactly was wrong, I was left with a general malaise about life that I couldn’t take any longer. I watched too much television, I drank too much wine, I went to the gym every single day, I filled my time and space with other people and their wins and losses and I counted the hours between waking and sleep when so I could give my mind respite from my thoughts. But no matter how over-stimulated or “busy” I managed to stay, it never left my side. Like a loyal dog, this nagging, persistent desire for more continued to stick with me.
Funny enough, I find that we are often led to what we most desire through secondary routes. For me, I was finally forced to slow down when I came face to face with my worst enemy at the time: my anxiety. With no other options, I enlisted the help of a therapist who I will always hold dear to my heart for this reason: He introduced to me meditation.
Now, in no way, shape or form was I sitting myself down to meditate everyday because I thought it would lead me to some spiritual awakening or "back to myself", I simply wanted the anxiety to leave. But as I familiarized myself with the practice, something miraculous happened. A shift in consciousness, if you will, that radically changed my life – forever.
"Stillness and silence speak... but only if you let them..."
You see, stillness and silence speak … but only if you let them. Many of us fear that if we stop running, stop working, stop obsessing, stop trying, that what we are running from will catch up with us. But that is the point. It’s as if there is a benevolent messenger running after you, with all the answers to your burning questions, but you are running away, convinced that if he catches you, you will surely die.
However, you begin to make room for stillness in your life, you allow answers to come through you. You allow your subconscious mind to voice what it has known all along. You allow all that you are to show up fully, presently and with confidence. You become clearer, sharper, more in focus. The endless loops playing in your mind calm down, the edge is taken off so to speak. From there, you can actually tap into the wisdom and knowing that lies within you rather than looking for answers outside where they can never be found.
The health problem you just can’t get to the root of? The career decision you're up in arms about? The relationships you can’t decide to leave or stay? The diet strategy that will work for your particular body needs? The friend you need to have a talk with but aren’t sure how? The money you need to come up with but have no clue where it will come from?
All these answers, and more, exist in this space.
But, getting there can be somewhat uncomfortable, and that’s where most people give up. When they shut off the TV, stop the needless conversation, turn off the notifications and retire to their quiet space alone, they begin to panic. Even a quiet house can send chills of anxiety running through someone who fears his own mind. His own heart.
So what do we do in the face of something that feels so large? We start small. If you are used to endless amounts of stimulation, absolute silence is going to feel empty and you’re going to want to run. That's the simple truth. The best antidote for this then is to take baby steps into that big, wide pond. Start by giving yourself 10 minutes of time to unplug a day. Turn off your cell phone or flip it upside down while you read a book, watch a movie or do dishes. Perhaps, roll your window down in the car and turn down the music. Maybe you take a walk without your phone or decide to do some reading instead of watching TV. Perhaps you just sit in silence with your friends or partner for a minute or two, not needing to fill the space with your words.
Start small. That is the key. Then, when you’re feeling more comfortable, ease your way into more purposeful practices like meditation, lying still or breath work. Or even just try spending a few hours completely to yourself. No distractions, no cell phones, no external noises, no podcasts, no radios… Just you, and you.
These rich, deeply personal experiences can only be felt for what they are when we are willing to receive and hear the gift wrapped up inside them. But if we’re not quite ready, they can propel us into further numbness and further shame because we’ve now failed at the “thing” that was supposed to change our life. This is why I suggest starting small and easing your way into such a practice.
Stillness and silence speak. But not in a language we are used to hearing. Learning to understanding this unique communicative style takes time, awareness and willingness. If all you start with is a small desire to hear that voice, that is enough. Eventually, you will figure it out, but give yourself the time and space to let it unfold naturally. Every question has an answer, our job is merely to allow the receiving of it.