I have always been more than a little uncomfortable with silence. I love to talk. Argument and debate are part of my skin.
Silence actually unnerves me and I will invariably do something to end silence and create dialogue. I often will use humor to do that. My daughter and my late wife could be silent for 30 to 60 seconds when they were talking on the phone on and it drove me up the wall. With the patient guidance of my wife Candace, I am beginning to appreciate the beauty and benefits of silence.
Silence can be beautiful but I need to listen in order to find that silence. Listening has never been a strong point for me. These days it seems as if everybody is yelling and few of us are listening. I am trying to change that by doing several things that have long been foreign to me. I have been trying to:
Listen to my breath, to my beating heart. They are a profound gift. I have people who I loved who no longer have that gift of life.
Listen to my better self. When I am quiet, that better person often talks to me and guides me. When all the talking is raucous and unnerving, my better self can get me through it without resorting to anger and meanness.
Listen to my dreams. No matter my age I can still dream about what might come next. Hope can shape me and guarantee my positive outlook on life.
Listen to those I love without defensiveness. I know they care deeply about me and they have wisdom I need.
Listen to my critics and to those who just tick me off. It’s difficult because those people are often not very nice and they believe stuff I don’t. Yet, my understanding of the world and of myself will be incomplete if I don’t listen to the critics. I don’t have to buy what they say, but it is terribly arrogant if I don’t at least consider their thoughts.
Listen with an open mind. I, like everybody else, have my beliefs and my “frames” for thinking about things. Increasingly, I am trying to consider the merits of other people’s thinking.
Listen to the written word. I am reading ever more non-fiction, history, current events reading from reliable sources, and provocative books such as Hillbilly Elegy. The more perspective I can find the better. Listen to the world around me. As I write I am sitting on the sunny patio of a coffee shop. I can hear just enough of the conversation next to me to know that it is not healthy. It is full of gossip and griping. Listening to that sort of thing shows me how cheap and vulgar I sound when I do that same thing.
Listen to the environment. The birds are chirping. The bunnies and squirrels are chattering and the dogs are barking. I need to listen more closely to the rising temperatures, the weird weather, such as tornadoes in Minnesota in March, and the melting ice packs, so our grandchildren can listen to the birds and the bunnies.
Talking is easy. I find listening far more difficult, but a worthy effort.