"Who can be wise, amaz’d, temperate and furious,
Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man!"
Macbeth (Act II, Scene III)
There is a fundamental skill that dictates the quality of our life, that is the ability to be quite quiet.
We do not tend to think of being quiet as a skill, it is not part of any school curriculum, but it is an essential life skill.
We are driven by words such as need, action, expectation, achievement. Busy people are celebrated, quiet people are forgotten.
People will ask me “Are you busy” as if this was a good thing? I am told that this is a caring question for a consultant - equivalent to "are you employed"? I always wonder about the sincerity of this question, because for me the question is not about being busy or emplyed, but rather "am I productive?" am I making a diffrence today to me and anyone around me?
Being quiet is not a passive act. It does not mean effecting an utter and total “shut down”.
For example planting ourselves on a sofa and sucking sweet nothings out of the dumb box is not being quiet. Watching television is a busy activity, our sense are being bombarded with cues to move in this and that direction. Television and movies are not a retreat into quiet but a plunge into more noise. The only difference is that other people are controlling the strings of our noise, not us. it also allows us to shut out those tough questions and challenges (about relationships and work that are getting the best of us).
To sit still. To be alone but not lonely. To be absolutely quite and allow a deeper power to untie the knots that scramble us so. This is no mean feat. It is one of the most courageous things we can do. It is possibly the greatest gift we can give ourselves.
Is it an accident that many of the deepest and most meaninful thinkers in our history were forced to spend long periods of quiet and solitude. Nelson Mandela, Matahtam Gandhi or even the great masters - the Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Guru Nanak, Moses, Krishna... all abandoned the noise of the mindless mass, stepped away from the crowd and came back with wisdom.
Society teaches us to act not reflect, to judge not inquire, to justify not acknowledge, to possess not appreciate. When is the last time you went to watch a movie where the hero or heroine spent two hours sitting in a room - meditating, praying and abandoning the urge to fix something? We cannot watch others do it, less do it ourselves.
when we sit alone and get free of our thinking, step away from our definitions and solutions, we are able to redefine ourselves and what matters, then we recieve a great gift. This gift comes at the price of confusion and ambiguity, it requires us to trust our inner wisdom. It is a painful step.
Instead of getting in our own way, all we need to do is allow the divinity that sleeps deep inside us to stir us and create something true.
"O! sir, sir, sir,
I would have had you put your power well on
Before you had worn it out...
You might have been enough the man you are
With striving less to be so: lesser had been
The thwarting of your dispositions if
You had not show’d them how you were dispos’d,
Ere they lack’d power to cross you"
Coriolanus (Act III, Scene II)