There have been many quotes over the years about the benefits of sitting in silence. When we sit with ourselves, we find things that we may have otherwise hidden because we were often too distracted by activity to notice. For example, when I become overly fatigued, I reach for a cookie or a piece of chocolate. The sweets have a “soothing” effect on my psyche, although they also have a detrimental effect on my physique. It’s been said that when we sit with something that’s bothering us, as when we have overworked ourselves too hard and feel frustrated, we’re either attempting to “stuff away” our feelings or soothe them without figuring out why we’re even bothered in the first place. When we slow down and sit in the silence, we usually can figure out almost immediately what brought us to the cookie, cake or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Silence soothes us, which is sometimes the best medicine for an otherwise troubled mind.
Because many of us have followed the guidelines set by both Governor Cuomo and President Trump, we’ve found ourselves working from home, staying at home, teaching our kids at home and exercising at home. We aren’t driving as much, which has offered a positive effect to our planet. Both California and India’s smog issues have decreased dramatically because of “stay at home” orders. While walking through our neighborhood last week, I didn’t breathe in the normal exhaust fumes of passing vehicles but could appreciate the fragrance of a freshly cut lawn and the aroma of freshly bloomed hyacinths. Silence and slowing down can help us to relish those things that delight our sense of smell and sight.
A friend of mine moved his family from Long Island to Maine several years ago. When he first moved, he mentioned how tough it would be for him to get used to the silence, as compared to the hurried pace of Long Island life. As time went on, he grew to appreciate the stillness. Silence can breed peace of mind that can have a positive effect on mental and physical health.
Last week, my friend mentioned that he’d noticed an increase in wildlife in his area. Several of his friends had mentioned increased wildlife activity in their areas as well, from a bobcat in the yard of one buddy to several deer that passed through the yard of another friend. I mentioned that my daughter heard something unusual in our Hicksville backyard in the wee hours of this past Monday. The noise roused our dog Luna, who scratched at the window to try to get through the screen. The motion light tripped, and our girl saw two large raccoons in a scuffle on our deck, something that might never have happened in our area if traffic had been at its “normal” levels. The “imposed silence” of staying put has given us the opportunity to allow nature to return to our areas.
Because of the decrease in cars on the road, other friends of mine mentioned that they’d heard an increase in wildlife activity behind their homes. A friend who lives in Suffolk County had two deer pass down her street, while a friend who lives in the Poconos mentioned that a very large black bear lumbered past her back door this past weekend. Prior to the “stay home” order, occurrences such as these were rare. In this case, “silence” of human activity allowed nature to come out of hiding.
While I’m certain that many of you are itching to return to work, I’m going to suggest that you use your time at home wisely. Take a moment to sit in your yard and listen to the silence. Listen to the sound of your breath as you close your eyes. Allow the peacefulness of just being still in the moment overtake you, and let it carry you on the next spring breeze. Even if you’re feeling stressed and reaching for a sugary snack, this is the perfect moment to take the time to step back and enjoy the silence. It’s not as scary as you think, and you might learn a little about yourself and nature in the process. As the band Depeche Mode once sang, “Enjoy the silence.” It won’t last forever.