My street is usually very noisy for such a small lane. I’ve complained about it before. There’s a technical (was a music) school across the street, an elementary school a block away, and some sort of meeting hall a few doors down that has regular gatherings that spill out onto my street. Large groups stand around at all hours drinking and yakking away.
Today though, there is only the song of the birds, and the clink of breakfast dishes from a neighbor’s window. Not even a car passes. It’s like living in the countryside.
As we settle into the inactivity of forced confinement, the silence is creeping in. The stillness. The nothingness. And it can really freak a person out.
We’re used to filling our lives—our heads—with noise. We cram our schedules, keeping busy. We work, we shop, we stream videos, we noodle on social media—and thanks to our phones, all at the same time. Like 2-year-olds, we don’t know how to sit still. Now, we are forced to.
“Pause” is what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo calls this period of confinement. We are putting the activity of our lives on pause.
Part of the panic and dread many feel in the days leading up to confinement, and in the first week during (myself included), is very simply resistance to the stillness. Doing nothing is like being nothing. We define ourselves by our schedules—our busy-ness—as if that is what makes us worthy, important. The thought of losing that can be terrifying.
Plus, all that external noise is the perfect distraction from the noise in our heads. Who wants to hear that? I sure don’t.
What I know a week into this confinement: The sooner you stop resisting and settle in to the silence, the sooner you’ll begin to deal with your inner noise. And that’s when you’ll see the beauty in all this nothingness. This silence. To be at one with nothingness is to really begin to understand the great expanse that is you, Grasshopper.
Don’t try to fill the silence with busy-ness and noise. Yes, a project is a good thing, but make sure it’s not just to keep busy. Let the silence be what it is. Take advantage of this pause from activity and profit from it—en profiter in French, to benefit. Slow down your mind as your life slows down. Be calm, be still. Let yourself be peaceful. It’s a good thing.
This period of confinement will pass, so enjoy the silence—this pause—while it lasts, and use it to cancel the noise of your life for good.
Side note: I hear reports (though it’s hard to know what’s true anymore) that in China, the skies are clearer because the inactivity is helping ease pollution there. The air is certainly clearer here in Paris for lack of cars. My lungs feel the difference. And we’ve had a string of sunny days, perhaps because there is less CO2 seeding the clouds. I’m totally making this up, but there are theories about it. Think about the other side-benefits stillness can bring to your life, and to the world.
Tip for the day:
My friend, Duda Baldwin, a life coach and therapist who is also certified in teaching meditation, says that meditation isn’t about sitting in silence, but inviting your demons to tea. The stillness allows that to happen, and with guided meditation, you can find peace with those demons. For someone like me who gets fidgety when I meditate, this makes meditation seem much more doable. Now is the perfect time to harness all that stillness and have that tea party. Find some online guided meditation courses to do once a day. Duda is running a 4-week online guided meditation workshop for only $20USD/$35AUS right now. After a night of anxiety attacks, I decided to sign up. If you’re interested, here is a link. (Totally unsolicited plug, by the way.)