Quiet Time By Jackson Silvanik

Over the past week I’ve been doing many small things that I haven’t done in a long time, such as reading physical books, writing in notepads and simply sitting quietly without a phone or tablet to siphon my attention. One of the first things that I noticed is how hard it is to write; not just deciding on a topic or finding the right words, but the actual act of writing with a pen. My handwriting has deteriorated significantly, and it wasn’t easy to read in the first place.

Another thing that I noticed was that the more you sit and search for answers, it soon becomes clear that you aren’t even sure what questions you should be asking. When thinking about various aspects of your life that you wish to improve, you inevitably end up circling back to the biggest questions: how, why, when did things go off the rails? These are the large-scale questions to which there is no immediate answer, and precisely why they can be so frustrating, and without the gratification of a quick result, such reflection can feel fruitless. How can you tell if you’re making progress if you can’t easily mark or define it, or explain it to others?

One of the other things you notice when you sit quietly is just how remarkably loud life can be. Certainly, the world is more accessible now than it ever has been. You can look up anything you want to know, talk to anyone you might need to reach out to, and stay on top of the news just as it’s happening. Consequently, there’s also myriad ways for the world to reach out to you at any moment; to remind you of the bills there are to pay, the tasks you still need to accomplish, to buy this or that. It can come via text or email, endless robocalls, targeted ads in your social media, and it can come at any moment. Simply turning it off for a moment drives home how conditioned we are to such a volume of constant interruption. 

I’ve recently developed a series of small rituals to help give some structure to my day, something that I let go of during the ongoing pandemic, where working from home and the new demands of parenthood have shaken up the 24-hour dynamic, and though I have always been a night owl, it’s made sleep even more distant and anxiety a more constant companion. Starting the day with a devotional has been a welcome tool that helps me start to put one foot in front of the other. Each one concludes with a few meditation tips; things to focus on as you simply sit and breathe for a few minutes. 

One recent reading describes the burden of worry as akin to being a tree trying to stand up against the wind. The mystery and spirit of God is constantly moving all around us, and out of pride and ego, we often try to resist, and worry batters us to exhaustion. One solitary tree cannot bear the burdens and challenges of the world alone, but when we sit and breathe and let the wind move through us instead of flailing against it, the burden can be lightened. The spirit fills the entire forest, and even the still air is always subtly moving. The experience is meant to be shared.

The words “pride” and “ego” have stood out in the different texts that I’ve been reading. It’s a concept that I obviously am meant to absorb. Many of my own challenges stem from the fact that I must learn how to share my fears and worries, to not fear vulnerability and to embrace that you’re rarely alone; you just convince yourself that you are as to appear successful, confident and strong. Mostly, we crave to be in control, and feeling it slip away is stressful. 

Some tips have helped me better calm down and find sleep in the night, one of which is to breathe in slowly and deeply with fists clenched, and then slowly open your hands and extend your fingers as you exhale. The physical act of imagining the pressures of the day releasing from your hands lightens the load just a bit. Sitting, breathing, reflecting and writing have helped me find a few tools to add to the toolkit in the search for improvement; perhaps finding “quiet time” throughout the day will reveal more.