Habit 4: Be willing to spend time alone or in silence
The willingness to spend time alone. T. S Elliot once said that we live in a world where we are “distracted from distraction by distraction” If that was true in the 1920s how much more so now! The whole poem is well worth reading and was one of my first spiritual lessons when I read it as a student. To read it click here
If we live in a world where the television set, the radio, our computers, ‘phones and gadgets fill the horror of the silent moment so well that we even forget what it is like to experience silence and the slight fear of not having every moment occupied by distraction any activity that brings us back to stillness and silence offers a chance to reconnect with the mystery that is present in silence: our sense of curiosity as we stand small and alone in the silence of the night sky, or sit quietly in meditation, or climb a mountain or walk along the beach or through a wood. In the silence we have an opportunity to touch the mystery and as we do so to get a sense that we are more than our worries, or limited bodies, our thoughts and fears: we are life living itself, the universe made self aware.
Consider how much you might fill your life with noise and distraction. How easy it is to turn on the radio or television set the moment one comes home, or start music playing. These all offer an opportunity to nourish us through informing, entertaining and delighting us so are not to be scorned, but Buddhism encourages the middle way between asceticism and excess. What is one’s own individual middle way in these things whereby one can have times of silence and wonder in one’s life?
The Monday class offers a chance of this – the 15 minutes of unguided mindfulness providing for some a space in the week which may be a unique experience, sitting quietly with up to 44 other men in stillness and silence.
Another traditional means for making time for this is through retreats.