We do not realize how loud the noise has become until silence takes over. This past weekend I participated in a silent retreat with my yoga studio. For approximately 40 hours I did not speak to anyone… including myself, which oddly enough I found to be the hardest part. The silence made me realize how ridiculous and excessive the busyness of everyday life is. Especially this time of year.
We are bombarded with ads and commercials telling us all the ‘must haves’ for this Christmas. Traffic is a nightmare and the stores are brimming with people. What does any of this do to bring us closer to loved ones or to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas? If anything all of this noise in our lives distracts us from the reason for the season. As consumerism has increased through the decades, Christmas has become very much divided. There is the spiritual side of Christmas and the physical side with all of the ‘things’ like gifts and decorations. Not to say these ‘things’ cannot be part of a spiritual Christmas, but the two have gotten farther and farther apart. People have divided down these lines. This is another example of how secular categorization has gone too far. People feel compelled to commit and promote one side over another, rather than embrace the best of both.
Just by participating in society the noise and rapid pace of living can take over and drown out the things we hold dearest. Any slow moments of quiet where spiritual reflection can happen is chased away. The answer is not seclusion, but a balance between the busy outside world and the quiet motions of the spirit. We need not all be monks. But we don’t need to be consumed by making money, spending money, or climbing the ladder for external gratification. We can have elements of both and function successfully in both realms. We need not commit solely to one way, but integrate the two to create a holistic way of living.
In silence we can come back to our roots, recognize all the unnecessary extras that clutter up our lives, understand what is truly important, reprioritize, and decide how we want to participate in the fast paced society we live in. With both stillness and busyness in our lives we gain a better appreciation for both. After a period of silence, we can return to our everyday lives with a new sense of vigor and patience. After being immersed in the daily motions of life, we are more prepared to take refuge in our minds and listen. A weekend-long retreat isn’t necessary, only a commitment to slow down and find quiet. Maybe for just 10 minutes a day. Through such efforts we can make our daily efforts more meaningful and challenge the superficial boundaries of secularism.