“Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything.” – Gordon Hempton

In January, I chose quiet as my word of the year. Quiet is this: an absence of noise or bustle; silence; calm.

In this season, my inclination to sink into the present is born from cultivating quiet. I’ve nurtured this practice by rising early, waking at 5:30 a.m. The stillness in the morning is unparalleled. It is as if I can listen to each petal of the morning blossom. I hear so much: the shuffle of my feet moving, the water streaming from the faucet, the drip of coffee brewing, the chirp of  birds flying and the sound of my breath inhaling and exhaling. Listening to my breath holds such power. These precious seconds say, yes, I am alive to witness it all.

Quiet also stops this notion of constantly saying, “I am busy.” I am more attuned to the distinction between the deliberate choice of living my life and falling into trap of labeling what I do everyday as “busy.” Lately, I’ve kept the following mantra in my mind: saying yes to one thing is saying no to something else. What does that mean? It means I am saying “no” more often to activities and people who take away from my quiet. I focus on what contributes to my personal joy: family dinner in the evenings, watching my daughter play tennis, reading, writing, running and making time for a small circle of friends. More and more, I am saying no. By doing so, I lay the groundwork for my quiet fortress.

It has changed the landscape of how I react to adverse situations and people. Instead of jumping to a particular conclusion, I take a few moments to silence the noise in my head and engage in quiet contemplation before opening my mouth. I try to talk less and listen more. This practice increases my presence and ability to sink into now. A metaphorical turning of the corner, I realize that there is so much I need to learn, the sound of my voice isn’t as important to me as listening to others.

This path of reflection is not without its consequences. My fears and anxiety rises to decibels that I fail to control. But isn’t that what it means to be present? Confronting those precise emotions that scare us the most? It is important, I know, to hear the sound of what flows through my veins. This is the most important kind of listening because it turns me toward spirituality, love and connection.

It is the way I practice living my questions, instead of ignoring them.

And then there is this, the beauty of the quiet so aptly described by Norman Juster,

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”

Listening to the quiet is precisely this: sinking into here.


Image: quiet by 55Laney69 via Flickr.