We live in an age where we feel as though everything matters and nothing can wait.
Between headlines, notifications, and the regular demands of our work and home life, it is all too easy to go through an entire day (or week) doing nothing other than responding to what feels like crisis. Our rhythm begins to sync with the pace of requests that fly across our screens, and we react. We can spend hours simply reacting.
Of course, some of these things are important. It’s important for us to know what is going on our world. It’s important for us to respond to our loved ones who need us. And it’s important for us to do our jobs well.
But in living reactively to the stimuli that constantly interrupt, we lose the ability to live intentionally. What we experience, over time, is an indomitable chaos for which no one, it seems, has charted a path of escape.
Quietness as a rhythm
No honest writer can tell you that the demands you experience don’t matter. Because the truth is, the human experience is complex. The world we live in is imperfect. And if we desire for our lifestyles to imbue meaning and hope, we can’t pretend to ignore the complexities and imperfections we see.
So rather than removing the chaos, we resist. We resist in our actions, our thoughts and our words. We resist in quietness.
In quietness, we find the ability to regain ourselves in the way we desire to be.
In quietness, we seek God, refreshing our spirits at the fountain that is like no other.
In quietness, we don’t have to do anything, be anything, or say anything.
It’s the most powerful pause, and can change everything about how we respond and engage outside of that quiet space.
So what does quietness look like? It starts with setting aside time where there will be no intrusion of chaos. It can look like an early morning walk in your neighborhood. Or a quiet coffee break in the afternoon. Or a few minutes on your knees before bed at night.
It can also look like a longer period of time away from your regular routine. Perhaps an entirely empty, quiet afternoon with nothing on the agenda but reflection. Or it can even be time spent entirely away from home on a short, intentional getaway.
4 simple practices in quietness
The most important element about creating this quietness is how you spend your time there. Here are 4 simple practices to start with.
1) Recognize and name the overwhelm.
Part of what adds to the exhaustion is that we don’t recognize the number of decisions and sacrifices we make everyday. We just do it— and that’s a form of survival. But in quietness, we have the opportunity to name the sources of chaos, even just to recognize that there is a lot on our plate. This also allows us to see how these demands range in levels of importance.
2) Seek solitude (and a change of scenery).
Solitude used to mean simply being alone. But today we can actually be more distracted on our own if we lack focused discipline. In quietness, we remove distractions by turning away from screens and removing ourselves from the path of interruptions. This actually could be helped by being the presence of another person who is also seeking quietness.
Is your living room or office the best space for this? Possibly not. If these spaces reflect loads of undone chores, you might need to find another place, or close your eyes (but don’t fall asleep!).
3) Distinguish between urgent and important.
In times of quiet, I like to reexamine my priorities. What do I absolutely have to address? What would be good areas of growth? What can wait?
Writing these thoughts down can be helpful– or simply giving yourself space to ponder them. Observe areas of anxiousness, grief, surprise, worry, or anguish; then decide if they need to be dealt with immediately or over a longer period of time.
4) Decide what matters enough to engage.
Quietness becomes resistance most evidently when we stop reacting like everyone else. And this can be a challenge: we can feel guilt over the fact that we’re trading immediacy for intentionality, and the fact that it looks different. However, this is the most crucial outcome of choosing quietness. It’s the mark of thoughtful living, of keeping long-term impact front-of-mind.
So if you decide to engage with a demand, do so with integrity. And if you decide not to engage, commit yourself and accept a new outcome.
Noise is not a virtue; chaos is no haven.
As far as false virtues go, noise is the new busyness. What used to be represented by jam-packed schedules is now the insidious demand to always be reacting, engaging, and responding.
In quietness, we withdraw from the momentary and allow ourselves to regain perspective of the long-term. It’s this perspective that makes the moments meaningful.