Friday, February 21, 2014

Listening to Silence

Before I went on my Camino, music was an integral part of my running routine.  I was always looking for that next song that would motivate me, help me keep my pace, and to be perfect for singing along to.  The idea of running without music sapped a lot of the joy from the idea of running.

My Compostela.  It is now in a frame, but I have yet to figure out where I'm going to hang it.  Part of me thinks it belongs in my bedroom, and part of me wants to bring it to work and hang it over my desk.

Then, I walked the Camino, and I spent 21 days in the quiet of my surroundings.  I learned to still my thoughts as I walked, and I found that having nothing on in the background was a blessing.  So often, we fill our surroundings with noise--sometimes so that we can drown out other sounds/noises, and sometimes so that we don't have to deal with the internal dialog.  When I am working, I actually prefer to work in silence, but because I work in a lab setting, I usually listen to music in order to block out the distractions of conversations, etc., going on around me.  It is why I like working in a corner where people don't always see me.  In doing so, I'm able to cut even more distractions around me.

My ear-buds--they are made to stay, even while running, and I love them! It doesn't hurt that they are purple, either!
When I first got back, I would turn on my music because I thought I had to in order to use my iPod Nano to record my run, then I would tuck my ear-buds into the strap of my bra.  It meant that I couldn't check my distance easily mid-run (my nano tells me through my ear-buds), but it allowed me to run with no music.  Instead, I could listen to the cadence of my feet, the crunch of the leaves, the flow of traffic, and the ebb and flow of my own thoughts.  Then I found a new setting--there is a "No Music" option!  So, now I run with at least one ear-bud in, but most of the time, there is no music playing.

This can be problematic when I am running with friends, as I tend to be more chatty without music playing, but the quiet is just another layer to the joy I find in running, especially when it is just me, Ginger, and the road.

As you can see, this is the standard response when we are about to go running, and it is heartbreaking when I have to go without her.  I'm convinced that she is mad at me for the rest of the day if I leave her behind.

When I am silent, I also find that I am attuned to things that I might otherwise miss.  Earlier this week, when I noticed that the plum trees outside my office were beginning to bloom, I also noticed that the local bee population had also found the blossoms.  Close to the tree, you could hear their buzzing, and I would have missed that if I hadn't been quiet both physically and internally. 

A bee visiting one of the plum trees near my office
Come Sunday, I will be running a repeat of the race that was my very first half marathon, and I'm of two minds about whether to listen to music or to run in the quiet.  I'm already looking forward to our footfalls on the pavement sounding like the sound of a hard rain hitting the roof, and the blessing of once again pitting myself against 13.1 miles.  I'm not expecting any major insights, but I also know that, when I listen to the silence, God will often whisper to me in that space.  It is when I let noise for the sake of noise creep in that I lose focus and balance.  I think that is also why many cloistered religious orders have some sort of rule about being silent for at least part of the day.  It carves out space where God can whisper to them.  May we all carve out spaces for silence in our lives, and may we listen to that silence.  Who knows?  Maybe the Lord is just waiting to speak!

This post is in response to the weekly writing challenge at .  Go there to find out more, and/or add to the conversation!