Day 12: The gift of Silence

When we reach for our devices, what is it that we’re running from? What hungers are we trying to satiate with things we know ultimately never actually feed or sustain us?

I remember when I was in grad school for clinical social work. One of the areas I struggled with most in sessions with clients was the silence. As soon as I encountered the inevitable silence that was a natural part of the ebb and flow of a therapy session, I felt the need to fill it up with something—a question, information. I just couldn’t tolerate it for some reason. My brilliant and amazing supervisor informed me that this struggle with silence was where my work was. And that it was important to be with that silence. 

If I allowed myself to be with it, the silence could reveal something about my client’s story to me. It could also reveal something about me as a clinician. It could reveal some of my feelings of insecurity, incompetence, fears that I didn’t know what I was doing and in some cases I didn’t.  I took the invitation and gradually began to open myself to the silence. As a result, I began to learn that there are many ways we communicate with each other, beyond words. That sometimes, in silence magical things can happen. Silence call allow insights to immerse for both client and therapist as it did many times in sessions with clients. Silence can offer many gifts if we don’t overrun it with grasping. I am still learning how to be with silence in the presence of others. But I am much better than I was. 

I brought up this story because life offers us many moments of this silence.  And sometimes the reasons why we reach for something—a device, social media or any kind of distraction to fill it up, is because within silence lies a hunger, an ache, something unknown and for many that can be terrifying. I know I’ve had times when it was for me. I’ve historically run from meditation for this very reason. But when I became courageous enough to sit with the thoughts, feelings and emotions that have always been here awaiting my loving and non-judgmental gaze, I learned that what was there wasn’t as terrifying as it seemed. This isn’t to say that everyone needs to meditate. In some cases, I would actually not recommend meditation for some.  But would invite everyone to take a step back from the need to fill up their inner space (and outer) space with a distraction and allow the silence, the doing nothing to reveal something to them. Who knows, maybe you will be led to that which can truly quell your hunger. 

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