This past week, I’ve been reflecting upon the power of silence; and, maybe more importantly how in that absence of sound and other stimuli there lives a very powerful reservoir. One that, as many of you know, I was not in touch with for many years.
In my reflection this past week, I’ve also been pondering how in today’s fast-paced, go, go, go, culture, I do have the United States in mind here, accessing silence is even more important. The paradox? It’s harder to access. Though not for the reason you may be thinking.
It’s harder to access, not because there is less silence available in the US. In fact, accessing silence has nothing to do with spaces and places. The reason that it is harder in the US to access silence is actually rather simple. It’s not valued, nor taught. In fact, one could argue that the opposite is valued.
Fast-paced, loud, go, go, go. Right? These may be horrible generalizations, yet take a look around any metropolitan city in this country, and what do you see? People moving fast, cars driving fast, animals moving fast. Habituation to a lifestyle that proceeds all of us, yet we also help to continue to perpetuate this lifestyle. Interesting.
In this post, I want to create a space to discuss some practices that anyone, no matter where you live, can take up to secure themselves a little silence each day. These practices are common sense. No great mysteries here. Yet, it’s the planning and doing and repeating that matter most in this conversation. (Re)habituation.
Well, I’ve not defined a word in a while in a post, so let’s do that, shall we? Good. Here we go.
habituation (of somebody/something) (to something) the action or condition of becoming used to something
There we go.
So, what then is (re)habituation? It simply means the process of habituating ourselves to a different set of stimuli, actions or conditions, while letting go of the ones we are currently habituated to. Simple. Yet, when we are habituated to an action or a particular set of conditions, it can be difficult to (re)habituate ourselves to something new.
I’ve written on this topic before, and think, especially right now, it is important for everyone to consider how they can get at least a few moments of silence in their lives each day.
Just a short 4 years ago, I never created silence for myself. In fact, I thought reading and watching television was, in their own way, silent time. And, when you don’t know how to access silence, and, in fact, are quite afraid of it, then watching TV or reading a book can seem like silent time.
Yet, accessing real silence takes practice. And, guess what? Once you’ve created a new habit to access silence, and you’ve done so for some time, you begin to realize that silence is always available. Even when you are busy. A paradox? Yes, and no.
Here are a couple things you can do on a regular basis to begin to access silence.
Stop – when you are super busy. Stop. Stop, and set an alarm on your phone for 2 minutes and just sit there and focus on your breath. The way the air is inhaled into your lungs and the way it is exhaled out. Just 2 minutes. Do that periodically throughout your day. You will find that in just 2 minutes of silence, you can quiet your mind a little, and gain more focus. As you practice this 2-minute silence break, increase it after a couple of weeks to 3 minutes, then 5 minutes. It is amazing how much focus and mental equilibrium can be created out of just a few minutes of real silence.
Walk – calendar yourself for regular walks. You can start with a 5-minute walk. If you’re at work, maybe it’s just around the area you work, inside or out, it matters not. What matters is to focus on your breath as you walk. As you take a step, inhale in, and as you take another step, exhale out. You can even count the steps as you take them. I still do this today without even thinking about it. Habituation.
Listen – when you are super busy, stop what you are doing, and listen to your mind and body. How do they feel? Are you tense? Is your mind super active? If so, stop and breathe for a few minutes, or take a walk, as described above.
Repeat – the most important thing about creating a new habit, or (re)habituating ourselves out of our current habits and into new ones is repetition. Daily is best. Yet, it is also important to set a schedule you can work with and that will feel good. So, if that’s every other day, so be it. Getting started is key, and then continuing as you are able will create more workability for you inside of creating a new habit.
Alright, there are a couple of things you can do to habituate yourself into a new habit, which will help you gain access to silent time everyday. Remember, if you forget, which will happen, or feel you don’t have time so choose not to access silent time one day, it’s okay.
There are no demerits here. It’s about creating more workability by increasing your focus, attention, and mental wellness, something everyone needs, and leaders must have.
Leadership and Silence
I’ve found accessing silence one of the most powerful concepts and practices of my entire life; and, remember, the person writing this post did know how to access even one minute of real silence until about 4 years ago. True.
Yet, when we create the time to be silent, to quiet our minds, to listen to our bodies, and to just be, what we get back is so much more. We get more focus, attention, and mental wellness, and we also get more insights. Insights into our own humanity. A sacred and beautiful experience.
Here are five few ways that silence has impacted my life and leadership.
Mental Flexibility – when we are mentally flexible, we are open and willing to listen and learn.
Calmness – remaining calm under great pressure and stress is key to keeping yourself and your team on track and in alignment.
Clarity – developing clarity means that your communications will be more clear and understandable. Communication is one of the most important functions in leadership, so being clear, concise, and understandable is key.
Patience – the ability to demonstrate patience shows your team that even under extreme pressure, you will remain open and flexible. Demonstrating patience will give your team more confidence in you as a leader.
Deeper Understanding – to lead, you must understand yourself well; and, you must be able to relate to all people, staff, peers, customers, clients, everyone. Developing a deeper understanding of your own humanity, means that you develop a deeper understanding of all humanity, which makes you more relatable, empathetic, and compassionate.
There are many more ways that silence has impacted my life and leadership, yet these are important for all of us, and for leaders they are critical. The ability to be mentally flexible, remain calm, have clarity, demonstrate patience, and create a deeper understanding of yourself are skills that every leader needs.
Remember, then, the next time you feel overwhelmed at work or in life, create silent time for yourself. It can even be 1 minute to start. What matters most is getting started.
It’s about accessing the silence that is always within you; and, watching that grow over time, as you continue to practice the act of creating silent time for yourself.
As I close my eyes to the sky, and breathe in deep, it occurs to me that time as we understand it has stopped belaboring me, while the vastness before me unfolds and expands with a specialness that will withstand all contrivances that the mind has planned.
Disrupting the pattern created over millennia, I watch silently, as the breath moves in and out of my body, and my heart slows down, to match the hidden, and ever so mysterious criteria.
Listen and believe in the unseen, for even when in doubt you can be sure that there is clout and integrity in the system of stars and constellations that remains, at times, hidden, yet always smitten.
And at others, it’s all we can do to catch a glimpse of that magical consideration, and watch as the dance of the cosmos plays out, and all our dreams come about.
Believe, I say, in the unseen, and dream big right into that emptiness, knowing all the while that that vastness is where all of life’s greatest gifts are awaiting your focused attention, and future dissemination.
In response to the WDYS #75 prompt from Keep it Alive, by Sadje.
This past week, I’ve been reflecting upon my emotions, as you might have noticed and/or read about in some of my poems. As we continue to move forward with vaccinations, it occurs to me that there will be emotions about the pandemic that will arise for all of us. Some we will see coming, some we will not.
Before we discuss this topic more, let’s take a look at the writing that occured this week, and the writing slated for next week.
This past week, I found myself drawn more to poetry. In fact, in the past two weeks, I’ve written about 10 new poems. All of which, I will share in the coming weeks. I’ve been feeling moved this week by several concepts, which did make their way into the following pieces.
The poem Keeps was initially inspired by the WDYS #74 prompt from Keep it Alive, by Sadje. The prompt this week reminded me of my hikes in the local area in which I live. Hikes where I am present to only my footing, the scenery, such as the earth, the foliage, the beautiful sky, and any wildlife that comes by. Beautiful.
As thoughts enter my mind, I let them pass through, and remain in that moment, just walking along the trail being one with the Nature that surrounds me.
It is quite meditative to walk, practice your breathing, and just listen and watch. There is healing in each foot step, each breath, and in each moment. If you’ve not tried meditative walking/hiking, I suggest giving it a try.
The poem Elixir was an acknowledgement to the present moment and the illusion of time. I’ve written several times about the social construction of time, and when you really understand that time, in fact, is illusory, you are freed from self-imposed limits bound in time.
We all live outside of time, yet also live in it, as we choose. A paradox, and not.
As I mentioned previously, I’ve created a bunch of new poems, and am excited to get them scheduled. I feel more poetry coming, so will continue to write and reflect on new concepts and insights as they come.
I am also continuing to work on a post on silence. I had an insight this week about a post on communication, and will probably start that sometime in the next week or two.
Alas, I’ve not made much progress on the Leadership from Within series. Though I’ve not made much progress yet, I will continue to endeavor to write this series. I see it as a possible book in the future, and have a lot of thinking and feeling about the topic to share.
Vaccinations are opening up more here locally. In fact, I am pleased to report that I am on an official waitlist for my first dose. I was told I should get a call in the next week or two.
Though I am pleased about this progress, both as a State and a Country, I realize that there is much work to do across this country and the world to ensure that everyone that wants a vaccination has access.
I will not pretend to know the answers to this issue. I will say, however, that I look forward to a day when those in legislative positions and positions of power in this country and around the globe think more collectively and collaboratively about serving the common good, which includes all of humanity. Everyone, everywhere.
With anticipation and excitement also comes apprehension, fear, and indifference. It’s just how it works. Which means that whereas some people will feel the former, some will feel the latter, and many of us will feel both.
When I was told that I would be put on a waiting list for my first dose of the vaccine, I was excited and anxious. Excited about the movement, and anxious about the unknown.
It is important for me to stay grounded in the current reality, which, yes, includes the vaccination being distributed to more and more people across the State. The current reality also includes, however, the fact that some people will not want to get the vaccine and some will not have access to the vaccine due to systematic inequalities in this country and around the world.
The latter of which fills me with sadness.
It also occurs to me that the landscape of how the pandemic, and respective responses to it from a systems and organizational perspective, are still completely unknown. Which simply means taking things as they come, developing plans and iterating those plans as needed, to ensure we continue to serve as many people as possible with educational options that fit their needs. Important.
The invitation I will send out to the team this week will be to recognize the emotions as they come for what they are. Responses to stimuli in your environment, and in your mind. Meaning, emotions are something we get and feel, they are not who we are.
Emotions, like our thoughts, do not define us. We choose.
Alright, that’s all for this week.
Have a wonderful week and please stay healthy and well.
This past week, I’ve been reflecting upon, well, the last year. Phew. As businesses begin to open up more here across the country, and the vaccine becomes more and more available, it is interesting to ponder where we’ve come from, where we are, and where we are going.
It’s also interesting to ponder and be present to the need to create time for ourselves away from the chaos, so we can just be; and, be in silence.
Before I get to my reflection on silence, however, let’s have a couple reflections on this past week’s posts, and a look at what next week holds.
I spent some more time completing the Leadership Series this week, with the final entry on building high-performance teams, which will publish next Saturday. Now that that series is complete, I will turn some of my attention to a new leadership series, Leading from Within.
I also spent some time this week, writing poetry for future posts. It’s fascinating to me to watch people develop, myself, of course, included. When I look at the first poem I wrote several months ago, to the most recent one, there are similarities, yet they are quite different. Iterative development. Fun.
Alright, here are two reflections from this week’s posts.
The poem Dream was inspired by the WDYS prompt from Keep it Alive, by Sadje.
As I pondered the scenic picture, I reflected upon how we gaze upon nature, and how nature gazes back. It’s all quite lovely. I began with that thought in mind, and then just let the words come. Well, better language would be that the words just came. I don’t have anything to do with the “letting” in this process.
I also reflected upon and played with the concepts of perception, diversity, and the vast ocean of both we have in this lovely world. It is so beautiful to contemplate all that we see within and without, isn’t it? Lovely.
I obviously also played with the concepts of dreaming and reality. For now, I will only say that that is up to the individual. Each of us. What’s a dream to you, and what’s real is for you alone; and, I think it is quite lovely that way.
Ah, the poem Streams was inspired by my childhood in Los Angeles; and, yes, there really was a “river bed” out back. It was the only real river I saw on a regular basis. Know though, that, as kids, we did get to see real streams, yet they were few and far between in the big city in which we lived.
Funnily enough, you don’t actually have to travel far in LA to get to a stream, yet most of the time I spent in water was, as many of you know, at the beach. Love the ocean, always have, always will.
I also played with the concept of existence in this poem. Pointing to a reality only found within. And, lastly I reflected upon dreams and how important it is to have them, tend them well, and to, yes, water them with love and affection. Nurture them, I say, and they will surely manifest for you one day.
As was aforementioned, this week, I finished the Leadership Serieswith a final installment on building high-performance teams. I am amazed, and then not, at how long this series took to complete. Factually, I wanted to write an installment on organizations, yet am going to wait to complete that installment in the Leading from Within series, which I’ve started.
I am also working on new posts on silence, strategic thinking, sleep, and, yep, another post on gardening. Fun.
I’ve also written several more poems this past week, they just came, and am looking forward to sharing those with you in the coming weeks.
I have a lot more ideas, and will let those percolate for a while.