Easing the Internal Noise

Inner Quiet

I’m now just one month away from my official year of silence beginning. Wow. I’m a mix of giddy and calm and excited and anxious and apprehensive and trusting. All of that.

Since I announced this intention to be silent several months ago, I’ve had a lot of time to settle into it. I’ve had a lot of time to sit with it and lean into it and try it on to make sure it still fit.

Truth be told, this project doesn’t officially begin for another month, but I have been silent in many ways already for the past four months. I haven’t spoken to anyone (verbally) except for my husband, my mom, my cats, and my doctor. I haven’t left the house except to see my doctor and get a much-needed hair cut. I have lowered the volume in my home in many ways – including quieting my own voice, turning off the phones’ ringers, and making space each day to be completely secluded and completely silent and completely still. So I’ve already gotten a feel for how this is going to go, and what both excites me and also scares me is that rather than feeling like I’ve had enough and to just hurry it up already and get this whole project over with, I’m finding that every part of me is craving so much more.

While someone looking in from the outside may think that I’m already very silent and still and quiet and mindful, I know on a deep level that I am just scratching the surface of what’s to come. I know that while it’s true that I’ve limited much of the external noise in my life, the internal noise is still just as loud. My thoughts are just as noisy and just as stressed and just as frenetic as they’ve always been. They keep me up at night – firing quickly one after the other and sounding the alarm that they must be dealt with immediately. I often wake up drenched in sweat with what feels like tiny electric shocks buzzing through my ears – alerting me to dangers that exist only in my mind.

These symptoms are the aftereffects of years and years of running on nothing but adrenaline. And these thoughts are the remnants of years and years of demanding more from myself than is humanly possible. I know without a doubt that these completely stressed-out thoughts will ease when I fully embrace a life of ease. 

And that ease will show up when I give into relaxation completely. It will come when I give myself full permission to rest and to stop the endless pushing. It will come when I allow myself to stop reacting to the constant “emergencies” in my mind and be mindful enough to step back and gain perspective – to be cognizant enough to determine whether an actual emergency is taking place or if it’s simply a habituated thought that I’ve labeled as such but that never truly was.

I know that as long as a part of me is fed by the adrenaline rush of a hurried and stressful life, this ease that I’m searching for will remain elusive and just out of reach. And so, that’s why I’m doing this. I want to feel at peace with myself. I want to embrace stillness because I know how fulfilling it truly is. I want to not only embrace external silence (by not talking to others as often or being on Facebook as often or being around loud noises as often), but truly embrace inner silence. For me, the outer silence is the easy part. The inner silence is what keeps me up at night. The inner silence is where all of the magic will be discovered, and it’s the place I most fear to go.

But I have faith that this journey that I’m embarking upon is not for naught. I have faith in my ability to rein in my thoughts through the healing power of silence. I trust in my soul and know that it would never lead me down a path that wasn’t in my best interest. So with that being said: inner silence, here I come!

Hugs,

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40 Minutes of Stillness

Surrender

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Many years ago, my husband, Dan, and I were at the bookstore and saw a title that caught our eye. It was The Creativity Book: A Year’s Worth of Inspiration and Guidance by Eric Maisel.

We had recently gotten married and started our handmade gift business from our one-room home on top of a mountain in New Mexico. We were surrounded by so much natural beauty – red dirt mixed with pinon trees, cacti, and mountains that seemed to go on and on. We were eager to get our business off of the ground and excited to see where it took us. I would be designing all of our new products (journals, cards, jewelry, and candles), and I couldn’t wait for my creativity to launch to new levels. I was hoping that this book would support me in doing exactly that.

It’s been years since I’ve read it, but I remember one of the first exercises surprised me. I thought this would be a book filled with ways to tap into your creativity through art projects or cooking experiments – maybe some walks in nature or drawing with a different hand. And there were some exercises like that, but the one that sticks out – that had a huge impact on me – was to sit still for 40 minutes. That was the entire assignment: to set the timer and do absolutely nothing for 40 entire minutes. To not meditate or sleep. To keep our eyes open and just be.

I remember that Dan was super excited about it. We’re very alike in many ways (some have even likened us a double helix), but one way that we’ve always been different is in our ability to sit still, to meditate, to breathe, and to do nothing. He has always had a knack for these things, and I have always resisted them.

And even though I was feeling a ton of resistance to this exercise, we had committed to going through the book together – I wanted to keep my word. And so, we set the kitchen timer, sat on the couch together, and let the exercise begin.

At first, I tried to embrace it. I thought that it would be easy – that I would breeze through it without a hitch. I’ve gotten through some pretty hard times in my life, and 40 minutes of stillness in my own home would fly by (or so I thought). I took a few deep breaths, settled into the couch, and embraced this exercise fully. I looked out the window at the squirrels eating. I looked around our house and felt appreciation for such a great space that we had fixed up to be a true home. I thought about how much I loved Dan and how happy I was that we could do these types of exercises together.

And then, I looked at the clock and saw that only three minutes had gone by, which meant that I still had 37 to go. This felt like an eternity, and I could feel panic starting to set in. I felt my chest begin to tighten and my mind start to race. I realized that this was a long, long time, and I had absolutely no idea how I would make it to the end.

And in that moment, my previous calm and happiness turned to anger. All I could think about was how much I hated being there. I felt that all of my freedom had been taken away (dramatic, but true). I was angry at the author for creating this assignment and angry at myself for being drawn to this book. I wasn’t sure that I was going to make it through the remaining 37 minutes – I didn’t think I could possibly sit there for that much longer. What was the point, anyway? I was just waiting for the moment when I would be free to live my life again.

I wish I could say that the anger passed and mindfulness and peace set in and I breezed through the time and lived happily ever after. I do wish that were the case, but it wasn’t quite how the story goes.

What really happened is that my anger quickly turned to anxiety. I had fantasies of jumping off the couch and running away from the exercise completely. The longer I sat still, the faster my mind seemed to go. By around the 10th minute, it kicked in with a vengeance and started giving me lists and lists of things to do, products to create, people to contact – and it gave them to me faster and faster throughout the exercise. Part of the assignment was that we couldn’t move, and so, as much as I wanted to grab a piece of paper and write everything down as it came up, I couldn’t. So instead I fixated on these lists for the rest of the time because I was terrified that I would forget them. I was so stressed and so tightly wound that as soon as the timer went off I immediately jumped off of the couch, grabbed the nearest piece of paper, and wrote down (as quickly as I could) every single thing that had come up during this downtime. I wrote pages and pages of notes. It felt like I had been without water for days and was quenching my thirst.

Contrastingly, Dan enjoyed every minute of this stillness exercise (as we thought he would). He relaxed into the moment, spaced out, and embraced it fully. He loved it.

While I felt completely tortured for not having the freedom to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, he was able to surrender into the present moment and simply be there. I was happy for him, but I figured that this was more his thing than mine. It’s like when you try someone else’s favorite food that you end up thinking is horrible or when you listen to someone’s favorite song and hope to god that you’ll never hear it again. Not everything is for everyone, and stillness definitely wasn’t for me. I vowed to never again do anything even remotely close to that. It wasn’t comfortable; it certainly didn’t feel good; and I was perfectly happy living my busy, always-in-motion life.

Until now.

I’m quickly learning that it’s best to never say never. Usually saying it will come back and bite you in the butt down the line. (At least that’s been my experience.) And I’m also learning that the things that we most resist are the exact things that we most need in our life (for the most part).

So here I am, years later, inviting not just 40 minutes of stillness into my life, but an entire year. Yikes. I’m positive that if I had embraced the exercise way back then, I wouldn’t need all of this stillness now. But, there’s such beauty in the way things work and how everything comes back around and how the universe brings us exactly what we need when we need it. I find that fascinating. That wasn’t the time – I wasn’t ready then. But I am certainly ready now. I can feel a longing for this deep stillness, and I am looking forward to releasing the resistance around it. I’m looking forward to simply being. That feels really good and just right.

Hugs and love,

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Perfectly Amazing

You Will Be Free

This yearning for silence has been lurking within me for quite some time. It’s not like I just woke up one morning and decided that I would eat breakfast, check my email, feed the cats, and be silent for a year. Definitely not. As I’ve mentioned before, it was a longing that came from deep within – something that I still don’t understand but trusted my inner voice enough to follow.

I am someone who likes to know the answers. I was the kid who drove everyone bonkers constantly asking “Why?” And, I’ve found that this need to know has stayed with me into adulthood.

So when this yearning for silence went from a mere idea/fantasy to something that I was actually going to do, I wanted to explore why I needed it so much. I realized that needing to be silent for such a long period of time isn’t “normal.” I understood that it’s pretty out there on the fringes of what most people would embark upon. Like I mentioned in my About page, it’s not like I’m a monk who has taken a vow of silence for religious reasons. I’m just a regular person who realized (after many years of fighting it) that if I was going to find my center (that part of me who is vibrant and at peace and filled with joy), I was going to need an extended period of quiet time to do it.

But why? Why couldn’t I just go away for a weekend to a silent retreat or extend my meditation practice to one hour a day instead of 15 minutes or set clearer boundaries to make sure I had plenty of quiet time built into each day? Why did I need a full year – why did it have to be this extreme?

I started reading through my old journals, and the answer quickly came to me.

I started journaling when I was nine years old. And while a lot of the entries are silly and playful and typical of any young girl, I could see patterns throughout of someone who pushed herself and pushed herself and pushed herself. I saw someone who wanted nothing more than to win everyone’s approval and thought that being perfect was the way into over hearts and receive love.

I found this entry that I wrote when I was 12:

journal entry copy

Reading this made me so sad. My heart broke for that young girl who was pushing herself so very hard and trying so desperately to be absolutely perfect. I wish I could go back and wrap this sweet girl in my arms and tell her that she was doing a beautiful job of living. I wish I could tell her that none of this external striving and pushing mattered. I wish I could tell her that those who were going to love her would love her unconditionally. I wish I could ask her to ease up on herself, to love herself extra, and to know that she was enough.

My need for perfection and approval grew and grew – especially with my grades throughout high school and college. Anything less than an A meant that I was a failure – not good enough. And after receiving one B+ in college, I literally popped a blood vessel in my eye from absolute shock. After college, this constant pushing and striving showed up in my work – in the amount of hours I worked and in the amount of pressure I put on myself to do everything perfectly.

Throughout the years, this quest for perfection has taken a measurable toll on my body, and I’ve spent most of my life dealing with various illnesses (including now – I’m writing this from the couch after spending the last three months here with adrenal fatigue). My body couldn’t keep up with all of the pushing, which frequently caused me to push it even more. I definitely didn’t feel like we were on the same team: I felt like it was constantly failing me.

While going through my journals brought some sadness, especially when I re-felt my own struggles through the years, it ended up bringing such clarity to where I am now and why I need this entire year of silence.

I frequently hear the saying, “I work hard, and so I also play hard.”

Well, it seems that my saying could be, “I push hard, and so I also release hard.” (Or something like that.) 

What I mean by this is that my soul is wise enough to know how I’m wired. My soul realized that I’m not the type of person to dip my toes into a project and see how it feels. If I commit to something, I will do it full out and give everything I have to it. And so, this all-knowing soul of mine continued to whisper that I needed a full year to be still and quiet and silent. It knew that after a lifetime of pushing, a weekend retreat just wasn’t going to do it. It knew that if I made it into a project, I would be much more likely to follow through with it. And it knew that the way into my heart was to align my tendency to push and try to perfect something that was at the same time good for my body and my soul. 

It makes so much sense to me now: this upcoming year of silence is a chance to make some serious life changes rather than dabble with them. It’s a chance for me to have enough time and space to create new habits where I make self care a priority. It’s a chance to stop trying to do everything on my own and instead surrender to this magical universe that I’m a part of. It’s a chance to hit the reset button and remember what’s important: love, joy, gratitude, presence, relaxing, freedom. It’s a chance to get back to me. And that feels perfectly amazing.

Hugs and love,

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Preparing for Silence

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In less than two months, my year of silence will begin. I was thinking today about whether there was anything I needed to do to prepare for this journey.

For as long as I can remember, I have always felt a bit uneasy and trepidatious before leaving on a trip. I would check and double check that I had everything that I needed. And then I would pack even more things just in case. I would leave out detailed instructions for the pet sitter listing every single detail about my furry kids’ day-to-day lives to try to keep their routine as close to normal as possible. I would feel somewhat queasy about leaving work – wondering what someone would do if they couldn’t get in touch with me while I was away. I would worry about the physical toll each trip would take on my body since I frequently would come home exhausted and sick.

I remember one vacation Dan and I were about to take several years ago where I just didn’t feel ready or prepared or excited. And, the night before we were supposed to leave, I dropped to the floor in tears and expressed all of the anxiety that I was feeling about going. Which turned out to be the best thing I could have done, actually. Because afterward, I stood up, resumed packing, and felt much better about the upcoming journey. I just needed to get all of the anticipatory angst and uncertainty out first.

When we actually left the house the next day, I was fine. I was actually excited about our trip. And I was able to be present while we were away. It wasn’t that I didn’t miss being at home, but I knew that everything was going to be okay. I finally allowed myself to surrender to it and enjoy myself. I was able to let go of the tightly held reins that I used to attempt to control each part of my life and simply relaxed.

And now that I’m thinking about it, this is true for almost every trip that I’ve ever taken. I work myself up into a frenzy beforehand, get it all out of my system, and then I’m able to embrace the journey while I’m actually on it.

And, as I’m getting closer to my year of silence, I’m feeling that same anxiety and uncertainty. Even though I’m not taking an actual trip – where I’ll go to some tropical beach or some faraway place, I am taking a journey. It’s a journey within where I’m completely uncertain about what I’ll find. 

I think it would somehow feel easier if I were going on an actual trip. I would know what to pack. I would know which arrangements needed to be made. I would know basically how it was going to go.

And I don’t know that now – I can’t know that now. I am setting off on this journey with nothing in my metaphorical suitcase except a whole lot of faith – faith in myself, in my soul, and in the universe. 

That’s all I’m bringing.

But one thing is for sure: I know that I’ll be okay. I can feel it. 

I know that even if I’m freaking out a little bit (or a lot) now, it’s all going to be okay. I’m moving into uncharted territory, and I’m giving myself permission to feel the anxiety and know that it’s normal to feel this way. But I’m also remembering that I’ve always felt this way before each trip that I’ve ever taken, and I’ve had some amazing experiences during my travels. Just like I know I’ll have some amazing experiences over the next year.

So to get back to what I’m doing to prepare: really nothing except focusing on why I’m doing this and continuing to hold onto faith and trust that I wouldn’t be led to this moment if I weren’t supposed to take this journey.

That feels really good to believe – to remember – to know. And that’s what I’m holding onto.

Hugs and love,

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I am currently writing a book about what I learned during my year of silence, and I would love to share it with you when it comes out! To sign up to be notified, please enter your name and email below and click on the Subscribe button. You'll also receive my guided meditation for free!