The gift of silence

21/07/2011 § 1 Comment

“We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Theresa

I was obliged to spend yesterday without my mobile phone or wallet. I had picked an old friend up from the airport the day before and had put my phone and wallet in the glove compartment of the car, out of the way. I remembered this an hour after Dasha had driven off in the car in the morning to go to work.  Nothing to be done.

As it turned out, being without the wallet wasn’t a big deal, as I had enough money to accomplish what I needed in the day. Not having the phone was much more significant. Yet after my initial aghast reaction, a day without my phone turned out to be a liberating experience.

Years ago I used to go days at a time without turning my phone on. But these days it goes everywhere with me and is nearly always on, except weekends.  So at first I felt naked without it. After all, it is one of the main ways I connect with the world.

But it is funny because I have come to realise it is also one of the ways I distance myself from the world. I can chat to someone 400 miles away while ignoring the person standing next to me or my immediate surroundings.  If I am too attached to my phone, it limits my ability to connect.

In the morning yesterday I worked at home but in the afternoon I had to go up to London for a meeting with a friend, followed by a dialogue session, a continuation of the series I began in May. My friend was late for the meeting. What I noticed was that if I had had my phone, I could easily have been fretting, if she hadn’t warned me she’d be late – should I call her, why hadn’t she at least texted me, etc. As it was I was completely relaxed – there was absolutely nothing I could do so I enjoyed the time and appreciated my surroundings. It was a great feeling.

On the train home afterwards, having no electronic item on me of any description similarly was liberating. I was able to let my mind wander freely, and I had what felt like a real breakthrough in something I had been thinking about for a while.

I later remembered that my hero Gandhi used to spend a day each week in silence. He wouldn’t say a word on that day; the most you could get out of him was a written note.  He found it gave him greater clarity. He said “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.”

So I have decided to adopt a modern version of Gandhi’s practice. Wednesday’s will henceforth be an e-mail and phone free day for me. I won’t turn on my phone, and I won’t pick up e-mails, until Thursday morning.

If you are disturbed in any way by this thought, if you are traumatised by the idea of being cut off from the world in this way, I am available for counseling. Just don’t try to contact me on a Wednesday….

Finally, I am away on holiday next week and won’t post a blog. I thought it might be nice to let one of my readers share something instead. So if anyone reading this has something they’d like to share via this blog, do get in touch. It would be ideal for someone who is a bit shy about sharing their thoughts and feelings in public. I can’t promise a massive audience but I do believe you will find them a supportive one 🙂


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