The birds sang well into the evening as I sat on the front porch swing, swaying back and forth, my legs outstretched over one arm of the swing and my head resting on a pillow situated against the other. I gazed toward the cherry trees that are now bejeweled with red gems near ready to be harvested.
The day before, on a Friday evening, I buckled the paddle board to the top of the car and headed up to a just-out-of-town spot of the river. The air was warm, but not hot, the crowds of fellow water enthusiasts was beginning to wane and following paddling up river for a handful of twists and turns of the water’s flow, I turned the board around, laid flat on my back, both pups on the board with me and floated gradually back down river. Gazing up at the pristine blue sky, not a sound but Mother Nature’s beauty and water lapping on my hands when I dipped my fingers into its refreshing cool.
It used to unsettle me to prefer such a quiet life on the weekends, not intrinsically, but as a result of the messaging of the culture swirling outside of me. Mind you, I still would choose quiet weekends of solo sojourning or partaking in projects at home, of course, with my dogs my companions because it brought deep contentment and rejuvenation, but in the back of my mind I thought I must be a little bit ‘wrong’ for enjoying, and indeed preferring quiet excursions, quiet company, quiet mediums of entertainment.
Thankfully, that feeling of being ‘wrong’ slowly began to recede as I began to ever so gradually permit myself to be fully me, and in many ways that began when I began blogging in 2009. It’s a funny, magical, wonderful thing that begins to occur when we permit our true selves to openly breathe and exist in the world; doing so provides a protective ‘something’, perhaps quiet confidence, quiet strength, or simply due to feeling so at peace because we are finally being ourselves, the thought to choose to live any other way even if the outside world scolds, shames or dismisses as even possible the deep contentment we have found could be real via a path presumed to be ‘wrong’, boring or any other negative qualifier, we journey in the way we know sits well with our being for our well-being.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell includes ‘to a great extend’ when he teaches that a quiet life nurtures and enables a happy life, and it is including this qualifier that I appreciate because there will be moments, instances, occurrences that necessarily involve less quiet. Whether literally or figuratively. We will have to navigate and may want to navigate gatherings of those whose company we enjoy, outings that bring us pleasure (for me, visiting the farmers’ market is an absolute joy or a classical music concert) – a concert where a favorite artist is performing, a beloved play is being presented, a museum’s exhibit has opened; or the noise of speaking up and letting your voice sing with others for a just cause of collective strength, or the ‘noise’ may arrive in the form of a challenge that is necessary to face in order to grow.
But as for a modus operandi, living quietly, if that is where we find our deep joy and contentment, is a gift to give ourselves.
The gifts of living a quiet life are many, and here are just a few:
- More Aha Moments and Increased Creativity: The creative mind has time to wander, discover, connect seemingly disparate ideas and stumble upon aha moments.
- Mindfulness as a chosen skill to learn, is strengthened in quiet living, and when we apply mindfulness, we find greater calm in silence and become more comfortable in our own company, thus being able to find the value of intentionally choosing such an approach to living our everydays. (explore this post for ideas for living mindfully in the everyday)
- Strengthen your mind, its memory, its ability to learn, and deepen emotional intelligence. A 2013 study revealed that given two hours of silence daily prompted growth of new cells in the hippocampus, the brain’s region linked to memory, emotions, and ability to learn.
- Make better decisions for your life journey. By giving yourself time to process new and proposed information, you strengthen your ability to respond rather than react, thus sorting through what really would be best for your path forward. (read this post to explore the difference between responding and reacting)
- Decrease stress. It has been my experience that when I honor my needs when I am living quietly, I reduce stress about anything and everything that may be overwhelming me because I now am giving myself time to reflect on why I am stressed and not create more and then attend to how to properly destress. A caveat that is important to note. If I am not being mindful of my thoughts, I can create stress in my quiet moments, but that would also mean I am actually not living quietly because my mind is making noise that is destructive and not being mindful. In other words, my lizard brain is steering the wheel, and I, with the potential to exercise my sage mind, have let it [the sage mind] take a back seat. So long as I am practicing self-awareness and mindfulness, all moments lived quietly reduce stress.
- Time to assess necessary skills to learn and then time to learn and practice said skills to live more contentedly. I write in detail about the many skills beneficial to learn to live a life of true contentment in my second book: Living A Simply Luxurious Life: Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self
The design of your quiet life will be unique to you just as how your life of true contentment will look (on the outside) unique as well, so while I may find calm and quiet in Mother Nature, another person may find calm and quiet in an urban setting that while void of ‘people noise’ provides the calm and steady white noise they prefer. However you prefer your quiet is up to you so long as it is truly you designing it, your true self. No more are you following someone else’s design nor choosing your design simply to be contrary to what others are doing. This is where self-awareness is crucial. When you can honestly answer, why am I doing what I am doing, and when the answer, the honest answer, in response is, Because it is where I find true contentment and inner peace and calm, then you will know this is your design of a quiet life.
There are many creations and norms in our modern world designed to grab our attention, nudge us into action (or reaction as the actual case may be) or convince us we are not enough just as we are in this moment. Each of these unnecessary intrusions creates noise, whether it is a literally ‘ping’ as we are trying to focus, or a distraction infused into our mind that we should be doing something else, living differently, pursuing something we don’t currently have. This is where you get to design your life. Sure you need to go to work, stay informed, pay your bills and take care of your health. There are necessities, but I would encourage you to reflect on what is a genuine necessity. I have been doing some reflection on this lately and try to do it regularly as life moves along to make sure I am not accepting something as ‘normal’ that is actually a learned behavior of blind acceptance of what is told is best, but is not actually best for me – either ever or no longer.
Perhaps that is the simple task we can all tend to from time to time, especially if we feel discontent. What is working to bring you moments of calm and when do you feel removed from this feeling? Sometimes, as I mentioned above, we feel challenged or uncomfortable or even fearful and in certain cases, such feelings are actually helpful, a GPS of sorts, to bring our attention to something that needs to be addressed, explored, learned. But in other instances, if it is a regular occurrence of discontent when we are engaged with or are surrounded by the same stimuli, it is wise to explore why we keep putting ourselves in such situations or living in such a way if that is what it welcomes into our days.
For me, wandering in Mother Nature, relaxing at home, giving myself time to write, practicing my French language skills (as I review on my own this summer before classes begin in the fall), cooking, gardening, writing some more, creating projects for TSLL, time just being with my dogs – wholly giving them my attention, small, intimate meals enjoyed with one or two people, this is a life I love living whether on the workday or the weekend, and I am grateful to have fully given myself permission to extinguish any shame about loving such a life. Such a life has given me a priceless peace, knowledge and awareness about my true self that is near difficult to unearth when living noisily. So it will be a quiet life for me and thankful to live such a life I am.
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38 Invaluable Lessons About Attaining Happiness, episode #131