Do you have this problem?

You’re with a friend, and all of a sudden there’s a momentary lapse in the conversation. Instead of just sitting with the silence, you find yourself immediately chattering on about some random thing neither of you cares about. Or worse, saying something inane you’ll regret later.

Being quiet is so uncomfortable you’ve just got to fill that space.

If this is you, be kind to yourself. Like most of us of a certain age, you were probably brought up to believe it’s the polite thing to do to not let conversation lag. That it’s up to you to keep the ball rolling.

Conversation (and words) were huge in my family. I was taught to be charming, show off my verbal acumen, my humor and my ability to engage others. As a result, I sometimes never shut up.

Being truly present with others

It has taken me years to learn to be comfortable in the silence.
In return,
I’ve gotten untold rewards. I’m more open. I take in, and enjoy, more of my surroundings. I’m able to hear more deeply what others are saying (and, sometimes, not saying). And, best of all, I can savor the sheer fellowship of their presence.

How do I do this?

Instead of thinking of the next great thing I can say, I think about the sun on my shoulders or the smell of the pine trees or the comfort I feel just being with that person.

What I’m doing is somewhat akin to meditation. I’m open and just being — allowing anything to happen, without having to direct or manipulate it. I’m even allowing myself to be “bored.”

What your monkey mind calls “boredom” just might be bliss.

If you meditate, you’re no doubt familiar with the concept of “monkey mind.” If you’re not a meditator, monkey mind is a Buddhist term for a mind that is “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.”

I call it the whirling dervish inside our heads. It’s the thing that runs the show when we’re doing anything other than sleeping or meditating. It makes us want to watch TV, read, shop, nap, eat… or what I’m writing about today, keep talking to avoid any silence or stillness in the presence of others.

In order for me to be comfortable in stillness, I had to learn about what it felt like. I soon realized silence and stillness felt like boredom, and that agitated me. In fact, it made me hungry, so I’d usually eat to fill the space. It was a challenging process, and one I still sometimes work on, but the benefits are huge.

Here are the ways silence and stillness benefit me. They:

          · Create space for restoration and healing.

          · Make it easier to feel gratitude for this moment, 
               this day and this life.

          · Give me the wisdom to know when my priorities 
               have gotten out of whack.

          · Quiet my mind, body and spirit.

          · Allows me to stop and feel goodness even in the 
               midst of a hectic day.

Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks is one of my go-to books on the subject of being comfortable in silence.

I encourage you to give it a try.

The next time you’re with someone and an uncomfortable silence opens up, see if you can sit with it – even relax into it — for a bit longer than usual. Notice what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised!

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