In our ever-busier lives, the need for solitude grows. How often do you get away, unplug and get yourself re-centered? It is a skill many are losing rapidly, and one that some never grasp to begin with. Maybe this will assist…
If you have read any of my other stuff, you know that I am an avid fly fisherman. The quest for silence in my head has been a lifelong pursuit, and luckily for me something I was taught early in life. Growing up hunting and fishing, you spend a lot of time in the woods or on the water with the sole (soul) purpose of being a still as possible. To be physically still, you have to be mentally still as well. As a kid this was not easy. I was just as rambunctious and fidgety as any other boy my age, but I learned the reward of controlling this desire to move and make noise. My Dad and I would have deer and other animals walk within very close proximity of us if I could hold still long enough. It was so cool to see animals up close, and it also made my Dad happy when I was able to do so as well, so I had that extra incentive added in.
I don’t really hunt anymore, other than to tag along with my Dad when he goes. If asked, I would tell people that I am a fly fisherman first and foremost, and my life is one big distraction between fly fishing trips. I love the outdoors in general, and appreciate all of the same things I used to, I just like fly fishing more. I love the act, the skill needed, the levels to those skills, the smell of the water, the sound of the rushing water. I love the catch and release approach to fishing, and the thrill of the chance to not only just share that moment in time with my quarry, but possibly to meet them again someday. I have caught this guy twice so far, four years apart. Both times were equally exciting and special. I love getting so immersed in the act of fishing that I “wake up” later in the day, having had several hours pass without a single thought rolling across the movie screen of my mind. It is such total focus on the task at hand that everything else just melts into the background.
I have had moments like this when playing racquetball as well. Some refer to it as a “white moment” or “being in the zone.” It is that magical plane of existence where you are free of judgement and thought. Flow state. You react, at least simultaneously if not in advance of things that are happening, like you have the only advanced copy of the script. I feel larger than life, and the court where I do my thing is smaller than usual. I can do things better than my level of normal, and seemingly without effort. There have been matches that I had to go back and watch video of what happened to see what I had done. I didn’t remember; I was living truly moment to moment and only in the present in each snippet of time. I knew it was awesome, but I couldn’t tell you the details.
I am starting to have these moments on stage while doing talks already as well. I am transferring the skills used above into another facet of my life and seeing the benefit and the sense of enjoyment rise accordingly. I love it, and I hope that shows.
I think the growing emphasis on the silencing of the mind is an exciting trend. There are lots of people promoting meditation and its benefits today. There are a bunch of phone apps for guided meditations to relax or focus, or whatever you feel you need more of in your life. Practices like Yoga and Tai Chi, versions of meditation where you are physically moving instead of being perfectly still, have more appeal for some. Regardless of the format, the purpose is the stillness of mind, the internal silence, that is the real goal. Its one of the things I love about writing; I sit at Starbucks, listen to the same block of songs, day after day. It is the warm up to most days, and I leave Starbucks with a placid mind, ready to take on the world.
I think far too many of us have the wrong approach when it comes to mental maintenance. We spend a lot of time working, worrying, and staring at screens, and almost no time recharging, refreshing, and recovering our minds. We need silence and moments of stillness to re-calibrate ourselves for more of the chaos. Don’t build your life around two weeks of vacation a year; the average American only takes about half of their allotted two weeks of vacation anyway. Not a good plan. We are the only country in the developed world that does not REQUIRE paid days off of work as a standard practice. THE ONLY ONE…look at the chart in the middle of the page in the hotlink above. Crazy!
I cannot put enough emphasis behind the idea of getting more silence into your life. Unplug and live, right here, right now. You don’t need to be connected to the rest of the world at all times. Start taking scheduled technology fasts; plan on a Sat. morning where you get up early, go for a walk or a hike, and promise yourself not to take your phone off airplane mode until noon. Sounds easy enough, but try it and see how much of a struggle it is. If it is not difficult, that is a good sign. Shoot for a full day next time. If you found that you struggled to go even a few hours without looking at social media, you are going to need to work to get equilibrium in your life. Hell, some people can’t even go to the bathroom without taking their phone with them. Regardless of where you are on this scale, all of us can benefit from more silence in our lives. Commit to a 30 day plan of some design, and stick to it. You will be amazed what just one month of focus on something new will yield. And you will be better for it.
As always, I wish you luck in your endeavors.