The ten minute silent challenge

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

Life runs at such a pace, sometimes I feel like I barely have time to think. The past week or so has been completely manic – B leaving and the quest for a new flatmate plus several deadlines to meet and big decisions to make means I don’t feel like I’ve got any brainspace.

Today is Remembrance Sunday, and we had Armistice Day a few days ago, and somehow, in all the busyness of the day, I managed to miss the two minutes’ silence. I was too busy to remember and too busy to stop.

I can’t help but think that there’s something wrong with the world when you don’t have the chance to just be. A full life doesn’t always a crammed-full life.

We were talking about this on Thursday night ā€“ why do we run around like headless chickens? What’s the rush? Why does the time to stop and stare get pushed to the end of the day and then inevitably lost?

So we agreed we’d try and spend ten minutes of every day in total solitude and silence for the next week. The rules are that it has to be a dedicated silence – not an active silence. To sit and be by yourself, with yourself, for ten minutes, not on the way to work, not praying or meditating, not reading or thinking, not DOing anything AT ALL. Concentrated silence.

Two days in, I’ll tell you – it’s hard.

Friday was a day that went at full pelt from the moment I woke up. By 7.30 that night I’d not stopped and I wondered if I’d actually have the time to spare ten minutes of silence. I was at S and V‘s house to make a call for an interview with a guy in America, and after it I was super-hyped up, having run on adrenalin all day. ‘Go and do your ten minutes now’ said V. So I did as I was told.

Thirty seconds passed and I got this twitchy urge to check my phone for messages. Not allowed.
At two minutes my brain started trying to make ‘to do’ lists. Not allowed.
I closed my eyes to try and help me focus. The temptation to start splurging a wishlist to God in prayer was strong. But this isn’t about wittering on to God about the bumf on my mind either. If he was there with me, then we were to sit in companionable silence.
Five minutes ā€“ I began to fidget, searching for stray hairs to pull out and bits of skin to pick. As you imagine, I was getting desperate. But even that was not allowed.

It’s hard to be silent and sit still with yourself. But I did it. Ten minutes. And the hyped up, psyched up woman who’d walked into the room had gone by the time I walked out of it.

Space and silence are sacred and precious. We need them. I’m trying to learn to make sure I protect their presence in my life. I’ll let you know how the rest of the week goes!

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2 responses to “The ten minute silent challenge

  1. Pingback: lost time and found time « Me and the Girl from Clapham·

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