When I tell people that I meditate I get different responses. One of the most common ones is that they have tried to meditate but it is too hard. When I ask what they find hard about it, they usually say that their mind is all over the place and they can’t sit still for anything more than a few minutes. They can’t keep their mind quiet. Yes, that is true for most everyone. Monkey mind, thoughts racing here and there, is part of meditation. I meditate with the understanding that in all likelihood my mind will wander and I will bring it back to some anchor like breathing or mantra or whatever technique I am practicing that day. I am practicing finding quiet.
Finding quiet is a powerful experience. And yet it can be a scary journey. When you are quiet you are alone with your own thoughts. What if those thoughts are uncomfortable, painful, scary or sad? That’s enough reason for many people to avoid finding quiet. Better to rush around and ignore the bad thoughts, you might think. When, contrarily, being quiet and allowing thoughts to rise without attachment to them is one technique through those painful thoughts. At the other side, when you reach quiet, there is a stillness that I find is intoxicating and calming.
I have wanted to do a silent retreat for a long time. And yet I have not followed through because I fear spending a lot of time with quiet. It seems easy enough for me to make quiet time daily for meditation. But the thought of silence for a full day, or several days in a row, sounds unimaginable. I am in the process of studying the Brahma Viharas: The Buddha’s Teachings on Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity (or Peace). I am reminded that one of the tenderest things you can give to yourself is quiet time. And I know through experience that being quiet and giving oneself time to just be with whatever arises is a tremendous gift. It is a loving and kind way to treat oneself. It is a wonderful place to start the cycle of openhearted living. And it needn’t be for a full day or week—though I still aspire to do that. Even a short time of finding quiet will do wonders. And it needn’t stop with just you.
One of the tenderest things you can give to another is quiet time in their presence. When you are quiet sitting next to another person there is a calmness and stillness that surrounds you both. Finding quiet with another being honors the trust between you. Finding quiet with another being opens your heart to compassion for one another. I think that is one reason why I find sitting next to a resting cat or dog so precious. They are so quiet and they are completely fine with being in silent in your presence. There is a naturalness and peacefulness to quiet that animals know much better than we humans.
And so I offer you this wish of finding quiet today. Allow yourself to experience a moment or two or more of silence. Allow the sounds of birds chirping to be the backdrop for treating yourself to some loving-kindness and heart-felt quiet. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you free from suffering, and may you live life with ease.