That’s my favorite part of the day. It’s when the kids are asleep. The T.V. is off. The dogs are napping. A stillness settles over the house.
I treasure my quiet time like a gift from the Gods. I carefully approach quiet time like it will disappear into the mists from which it came. It only takes one dropped object, a sneeze, a cough, or any noise at all to break the golden silence.
Why is quiet time so important?
I used to try to make a lot happen in the quiet minutes. There’s laundry, dishes, cleaning, and other household chores that are just easier without all the little ones running under foot. Those activities are important, but I realized they’re still a form of noise. They’re not the best way to spend those rare minutes.
It’s important to slow down. We spend so much time racing around from one task to another with our mind always going back and forth through time to events that may or may not even be real. Suddenly, you look up. It’s bedtime. You find yourself wondering where your day went.
You’re missing out on your life. Silence can bring you back to this moment where you’re truly living.
Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Find Those Still Moments
Pay attention to the unfolding of your day. You will notice chunks of time where silence is presenting opportunity to be comfortable with yourself. Unfortunately, they’re easy to overlook and miss.
There are times when I find myself messing around with my phone. I will check facebook. email, twitter, back to facebook, email, sports updates, and facebook …
See the pattern? I can burn twenty minutes like that. I’m not even a “heavy user” of smart phone technology. Those are twenty minutes I could have spent being more comfortable with myself.
Look for similar patterns of wasted time in your life. You’ll find multiple opportunities to make better use of your time. Set your attention on a task and be amazed by how fast you start seeing chances.
Make Quiet Time More Useful
I know when the kids will nap within a twenty minute range. That allows some planning ahead. These are some of the ways I make use of my quiet time.
Increase Mindfulness: On some days, I like to settle in with a nice hot caramel machiatto while the kids sleep. I sip that guilty pleasure and just sit listening to all the various sounds that normally go unnoticed. I can hear the drum rattle of the ceiling fans, cars going by outside, birds taunting their fellows in the tree in front of the house, my neighbor working in his garage, and the steady rhythm of my sleeping baby on the monitor.
That increases awareness of this moment. This moment where nothing is hurting you. There is no worry or concern. There’s no to do list demanding your attention. It’s just this moment with you and all the sounds around you. Notice the sensations of your body as you take a sip from your chosen beverage, notice how your breath feels moving in and out of your lungs, and be present within your own body.
Reading: I have an addiction to books without a lot of time to read. That means I have an ever present pile of books to read; both physical and digital. It’s hard to read with a house full of pets and kids. That’s when the quiet minutes come in handy.
I get frustrated if I only focus on finishing a book. The trick is chunking the book into smaller goals. I set a page count. All I need is thirty to forty pages in my quiet time. That’s usually enough to get through a chapter. It’s also about the maximum amount of pages I can reach by the time the baby is awake.
Reading allows you to escape your world for a while. Your mind will be focused on the story or the lesson. You can finish a standard novel or fiction book in a week if you follow my page count plan.
Writing: How do you think I get time to write on this blog? You guessed right. Quiet time!
I take whatever I can get. Inspiration will strike for a new post, usually when I’m reading, and I get as much information written as possible before quiet time in over. That usually gets me a working headline, first paragraph, and an outline of the direction I’m going with the post. It all gets fleshed out as opportunity allows.
Silence allows creativity to flow. You’re free from distractions. You’re allowing yourself to relax. These are moments that allow inspiration to flash. Imagine what you could create if you would only give yourself the time.
Self-Reflection: Know thyself is one of the world’s oldest maxims.
Take a look at how you spend your time. Does it all match up with your internal values? If not, how can you get them back in alignment? This is also a good way to review your internal values. Are you sure they actually represent what you believe, or have they been planted there by culture, school, or other subtle influences?
The Benefits of Silence Await
There are two common threads to the ways I spend my quiet time.
Relaxation: It doesn’t matter if I’m reading, writing, or meditating. All of them are about relaxing.
Relaxation is an important skill to counter the stress from your day. Relaxing is a way to signal your brain that life is good. It will calm your fight or flight response down.
Notice the tension in your body right now. Allow yourself to relax the muscles in your face. Relax all the tiny muscles around your eyes, and while you’re at it, go ahead and unclench your jaw. Doesn’t that feel better already?
Here’s a list of Relaxation’s greatest hits according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Improved Immune Response
- Improved Concentration
- Lowered Blood Pressure
- Lowered Heart Rate
- Slowed Breathing Rate
- Reduced Anger and Frustration
- Increased Confidence
- Reduced Muscle Tension and Chronic Pain
Some techniques will garner greater benefits than others. The point is it’s time to start relaxing. You’re important. Treat yourself to some quiet time.
Balance The Mind: Your mind is a child hopped up on elephant sized portions of sugar that won’t shut up. It’s always rambling about bills, groceries, kids, jobs, what sucks, what’s good, hopes, dreams, wishes, fears, the past, the future, and every damn thing in between. It’s a ‘guess what’ game every second of your day.
Taking your quiet time seriously is taking control of your attention. Setting out to practice mindfulness, or sit down with your favorite book, is sending the signal to your mind to it’s time to be quiet.
Your attention is important. The thoughts you give weight are the networks you strengthen in your mind. If you’re always worried, or stressed out, than that’s the way you’re wiring your brain to act. Make proper use of your silence and you will literally rewire your brain for more positive and useful thoughts, emotions, and silence.
What will you do when you find yourself sitting in silence? I hope you choose to know yourself, relax, and strengthen what’s good in your world.