With fall sports starting, parents will get busier than ever, so this is the perfect time to cultivate a habit of silence.
I never thought much about silence until I went on a retreat. After dinner, I learned I couldn’t speak until morning. The relief was breathtaking: no conversations to work at and no reason to force politeness and cheerfulness.
After that, I counted how much noise competes for my attention simultaneously in my house, including the dishwasher and TV. Then one day, my kids visited their grandparents, and after I finished my chores, the house was truly quiet.
I sat and did nothing but let my mind unwind, which was as relaxing as a half-hour massage. After two days of silence, I wasn’t so dead tired at 7 p.m. Indeed, I think you can reduce the list of what exhausts you if you turn off the cell phone/radio/fill in the blank.
Perhaps our ancestors could do such heavy manual labor from sunup to sundown because they weren’t bombarded with media and background irritation. Maybe another reason silence strengthens is because silence empowers. When you listen to the radio, somebody else picks what you pay attention to. But when you’re silent, you decide.
Today you’ll find lots of opportunity for silence in places of worship. But this is another incidence in which religious observance is good for you, too. Sure, church is a chance to pray, but silence there is one way you can observe the Sabbath as a day of rest.
When you’re quiet, you may be surprised at what you notice: The world has a sense of humor. Some years ago, we were invited to a Passover Seder in Ogden Dunes. The front door was opened to receive Elijah the Prophet, and the cup of Elijah was set on the table.
The dad of the family said, “At this moment, we welcome Elijah the Prophet.”
We were silent–and heard a train’s horn, as if Elijah were coming on the rails.
There are lots of ways to be silent. Before I sleep, I don’t watch TV or play video games; the bright light and jarring colors are too much sensory work. Sometimes, when I find myself too stressed out, I turn off news channels and their chattering about topics that probably don’t pertain to me anyway.
Maybe silence is one reason I like winter. There are less colors and glaring sun, and snow mutes all sounds.
Today, spend five minutes in silence. At first, you’ll fret over your to-do list and plan how you’ll get from Point A to Point B in your week. But eventually, you’ll relax–and for many parents, that’s the best gift they can get.