I didn’t realize how I much appreciated silence until my late twenties, after another mental health breakdown. A bad breakup had sent me running to another self-help group and, unknowingly, into a deeper search for God.
Amidst the inner chaos of my life and all the self-loathing and negative thoughts, my friends encouraged me to sit still, to try it at least. At first, it felt like I was praying to nothing. I felt silly; alone in my room, talking to myself, sitting in the lotus position and waiting for some kind of spiritual experience.
It did come eventually, but it happened gradually. I attended self-help meetings religiously, therapy, talked to fellow sufferers on the phone. I prayed and read spiritual books about Jesus, mindfulness, the divine.
I started doing things I always wanted to do, but felt like I couldn’t: things like going to the movies by myself, heading to my favorite used bookstore in the city and then seeing an independent film, taking long hikes in the woods.
Prayer and meditation got easier, slowly but surely. I began to feel connected in those silent sessions; to what I wasn’t sure. The anxieties and fears remained, but I felt calmer, more peaceful.
I’d set a timer and sit there in silence, let the monkey mind wear itself out until I felt something, some deeper connection. I began to notice slight shifts in my perception, how I viewed the world, how I viewed other people.
I prayed for the people I worked with, especially the ones who annoyed me. I noticed that my heart opened and my stance toward them softened. I have the silence to thank for this, the silence that wore away at the resentments in my heart and the negativity in my mind.
Sometimes it’s easy to go back to the silent and peaceful place. I imagine it as a place inside myself, available to me whenever I want to go there. Other times, it’s harder. I’ll use a guided meditation to help me, maybe a body scan, to soothe the anxieties of modern life.
When my father died, it was as if that silent place was closed to me for several months. Something changed, as if the color of the sky in the silent place went from a light blue to a charcoal gray. Everything was gray.
The clouds are parting now; the sky is getting more friendly, less ominous. When I go to my silent place, the distractions still come. But if I sit long enough, the experience of inner peace is always available to me.