20 Seconds of Silence
There are few things as powerful as silence. Of all the things you can say or do, silence says and does more.
For over two years, I spent one out of every four weeks in silence and I came to rely on it as a close friend. But after leaving the monastery, it began to fade. Now silence is a friend I see all too rarely and go to even less.
But I don’t want it to be that way. I want to spend more time with my friend and I’d like to invite you to spend time with her too. So I’ve created a short list of ways that to spend 20 seconds in silence and transform your life.
1. After waking –
Before you check your email or turn on your TV, set a timer for 20 seconds and just lie in silence. Try to make your mind as silent as the room around you. Notice the silence hidden in your breath. Doing this will make each day better.
2. Drinking Coffee –
Coffee is not only a miracle substance, it’s delicious. After you pour or purchase your coffee, spend 20 seconds in silence smelling and sipping it. Bring in the aroma, notice the subtle notes of flavor, and become absorbed in the experience of silent coffee.
3. Eating Breakfast –
It doesn’t matter if you are eating eggs or a pop tart breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So take 20 seconds of silence to taste it. Your body has gone all night repairing itself and preparing for the day. Make the nourishment a silent expression of gratitude for the body.
4. Riding or driving –
Often the morning commute can be a grueling experience. And being late only makes it worse, but commuting is also this amazing transition between home and work. And you can use silence to honor this transition.
Turn off your radio or pause your I-pod for 20 seconds and just be open to what’s around you. Listen to the sounds of the motor. Look at the light coming in the windows. Pause and appreciate that you have somewhere to go and that you are here in the moment of going.
5. Mid – morning –
It’s so easy to get caught up in each day as it slides smoothly away from us. But instead of letting the day sweep us away, we can connect with each day more deeply. Take a short mid morning break and spend 20 seconds in silence.
Turn off or darken your monitor and stare at the blank screen. Make your mind like that screen, a calm uniform place of empty possibility as you soak in the silence.
6. Lunch –
We often have lunch with other people and that’s great, but eating lunch alone can be lovely as well. Resist the urge to take a book and instead sit near a window.
Then for 20 seconds instead of reading or watching, open your senses in silence to the world around you. Watch people, watch your breath, and become aware of the silence that’s hidden behind everything you see.
7. Conversations –
Our desire to fill empty space can become overwhelming, but it’s not necessary. Instead of waiting for your turn to speak you can offer 20 seconds of silence to everyone you speak to. As they talk you can offer silence by listening deeply.
And whenever someone expresses something really impactful or vulnerable, you can offer 20 seconds of silence to really consider what they said. If the silence feels awkward you might try saying, “I just want to take a minute to absorb that, is that ok?”
I’ve found that people not only appreciate the silence, but that often the silence honors their expression better than anything I could ever have said to begin with.
8. Getting Home –
No matter what your day has been like, your home has no idea. You partner, your kids, your roommates, and even your dog don’t know what your day has held.
So before you dump all of your troubles at the doorstep, take 20 seconds of silence to just appreciate being home. Absorb the feeling of the rooms and the energy of the people who have occupied this space.
9. Before Bed –
Even when we are sleeping our mind continues to run. But we do have some control about what to take into our slumber. Before putting your head on your pillow, take 20 seconds of silence to release the day. Tell your self what has been done has been done. And what has not been done has not been done. Then let it be. Let the silence wash away your day and carry you into the realm of sleep.
10. Anytime –
The very best time for silence is anytime. Anytime you need a break, anytime you feel your emotions welling up, anytime you get angry, anytime want to make a snarky comment, anytime you are unsure, anytime you don’t know what to do, anytime you are lonely, anytime you are happy, anytime you are in love, anytime you are anything at all.
When anytime happens take 20 seconds of silence just to enjoy this moment of your life. Absorb how it feels, sense the way it effects your body, and let go of your thoughts.
These 20 seconds of silence is so simple, but it can also be so powerful. It can change your life one moment at a time. So what are you waiting for? Now is as good of a time as any.