We all know what quiet means, don't we. We've heard it enough times, first at home as an urgent request from a mother tired of squabbling siblings, then at school when it's time to dive into books, and at the movies, where hushes are thrown quickly at even the slightest sound. Everywhere we go there seems to be a time allotted to quiet.
As a kid, I loved going to summer camp. Just when staying at home started to lose it's intrigue and began to turn to boredom, camp was a welcome retreat from the mundane, and from aggravating siblings. The week brought excitement and energy to swimming, crafting, hiking, singing, playing games, making friends, and just simply being silly. But always after lunch was the dreaded "quiet hour." Here we learned that "quiet" meant finding ways to do all of the normal pre-teen activities with a careful finger on the mute button. Quiet meant stringing mini ziplines from bunk to bunk so we could send each other notes. Quiet meant muffled giggles, and our own made up sign language, and paper airplanes. Quiet meant anything goes as long as the counselor doesn't wake up.
Later in my life I was introduced to "quiet time," the term coined by Christians to define time spent with God. Many denominations interpret this differently, but I was taught a routine of reading an appointed verse or verses of the Bible, reflecting on it, sometimes writing down responses to a prepared set of questions or journaling, and following up with discussion and/or prayer.
Our daily lives are full of overstimulation, and we are starting to overstimulate even our quiet time. We fear the quiet, fear the empty. Silence often coincides with the adjective "awkward."
I had a roommate in college who kept the TV on every waking hour, because she needed constant background noise, the quiet drove her crazy. Until recently, I wasn't able to fall asleep at night without some white noise to fill the space. We are addicted to noise. When we become overwhelmed we look for something else to fill with, as though we can only medicate our souls by adding something more. But what we really need is less.
Somewhere along the road we have lost the real meaning for quiet in our daily lives, and as a result we have lost the benefits of being comfortable with quiet.
To be quiet, we must be still, and listen. Without judgment, without response, without comment. Just quiet.
Let your soul breathe.