After a year of pandemic isolation, you would think I’d have had enough of silence. As someone who is always “in her head,” I feel like during all this alone time I’ve cycled through just about every thought a person could have related to our current predicament, not to mention the state of the world, and the future of all of humanity.
“Input demands the incessant, knee-jerk activity of ‘checking,’” she writes, and goes on to explain that the minute we experience even a moment of boredom or downtime these days, we immediately reach to fill it by checking our phone or e-mail or the latest news update.
I’ve prided myself for years on not being addicted to my phone or to social media or any of the other harmful distractions we hear so much about. It was alarming to realize that during the pandemic, I had slipped into that addiction without even realizing it. I’ve been checking my e-mail obsessively hoping for . . . what? An e-mail that would “save” my business, or offer me something to focus on other than pandemic challenges, or just lift my spirits? I went from checking social media only briefly in the morning and evening to scanning it several times a day. I kept my phone near me at all times in case I missed a text.
There are lots of reasons why I struggled to feel creative this past year, but there’s now no doubt that my coping mechanism for feeling “stuck” was to reach for something to distract my mind. If I was reading, learning, even ruminating, I felt like at least I was doing something productive. I mean, I wasn’t just staring at the wall all day. Now I’m realizing it might have been better if I had occasionally stared at the wall, if I hadn’t been so terrified of the boredom I was feeling and had learned to sit with it instead.
“Sometimes our thoughts need space to move around, to find their own connections, and to become what ultimately lands us successfully on the other side of that (creative) tension: insight.” Christine wrote.
I thought I was doing that this past year when I would make myself meditate. But I was really just crossing meditation off my to-do list. Not only that, I put all kinds of pressure on my meditation practice, expecting great insights to come from it and feeling constantly disappointed when they didn’t.
So yesterday, rather than turning on a podcast while I did my yoga, I kept the house in total silence. I paid attention to how my body moved and just noticed the thoughts that appeared as I slipped into each pose. This is how I used to practice yoga before all the unrest of 2020 when I started listening to podcasts while exercising to help me make sense of it all.
To be honest, it felt weird at first to be practicing yoga in silence. Way too quiet, and I could feel the seconds ticking by. For the first several minutes, I had to resist the urge to reach for my phone. I had to stop my brain from coaxing me into a place of distraction with thoughts like, “Just do the five-minute news update. It’s your responsibility to know what’s going on in the world” or “You could listen to one of your personal-development apps. Self-improvement goes with yoga, right?” or “Maybe some music wouldn’t hurt.”
Then slowly I started to remember what it felt like to be in my body and not in my head. As soon as that happened, I sabotaged myself again. I thought, “Okay, now the insights will come.” I pushed that demand aside and did my best to just breathe into the moment and feel that was enough.
I did not get any great insights in that quiet space, but I definitely felt more grounded after that yoga session than I have in a long time. Yesterday, I went back to checking my social media only once in the morning and once in the evening. I had to remind myself several times that was the rule. I started worrying I was falling behind in my podcasts, so I deleted a few to take the pressure off. Now I need to work on my e-mail addiction. That one will be harder.
It’s no wonder I’ve always had my best ideas in the shower. That’s the one place where nothing distracts me. Christine recommends you set a timer each day for ten minutes and do nothing in that time. To get back to the old me, I think I’ll need more than ten minutes. So, I’m looking for those spaces in my life I can fill with stillness and quiet, which is exactly what I thought I would not be doing when the restrictions lifted. I thought I’d be doing the opposite. Life just keeps spinning us for a loop, doesn’t it?
Teresa R. Funke
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