Last weekend, despite the stormy weather, I was fortunate to be able to go for a yoga retreat led by Tara Stiles at the Standard Spa in Miami. On Saturday morning, when the resort was still quiet and asleep, I decided to go out for a morning walk by the waterfront. Standing before the vast expanse of water with the only sound coming from the waves and morning breeze, I felt a deep, calming silence, and a peaceful solitude.
When we live in a busy place or have a hectic schedule, silence and solitude could easily become luxuries that we have to purposely seek to obtain. Most of us, myself included, have the tendency to evade solitude and fill silence with noise. In silence, we are most likely faced with our true selves. Negative thoughts or anxieties about ourselves would usually surface during this time, when we are away from distractions. It is often much easier to escape these thoughts by leaving our solitude in exchange for others’ company, or by drowning our silence in distracting sounds. When we choose to dwell quietly in our solitude, however, we may find that it is not as frightening as we may expect. They could take sometime to get used to, but silence and solitude give us the opportunity to get to know ourselves, to discover our strengths as well as our weaknesses, and to accept purselves for who we really are.
Yoga and meditation are probably among the best ways I know to integrate silence and solitude into our daily life. They help us to remain within ourselves, free from distracting thoughts (at least most of the time). The movements in yoga require us to focus so that we barely have any other choice but to pay attention to ourselves at the present moment. During the retreat, the classes were stretched to two hours long, and Tara – with her usual eloquence in delivering the instructions – made it easy for us to remain centered, even as we were going through the most challenging poses. By practicing tuning into ourselves, we learn to create space for silence and solitude without having to isolate ourselves in a secluded place.
Being calm and centered is of course a good thing, but aside from this, another rewarding effect from being centered is the ability to become more present to others. The more we feel fulfilled and at peace with ourselves, the easier it becomes for us to be there for those who need us. It is not selfish for us to spend time in silence and solitude, for it encourages us to shift from asking others “what can you do for me?” to asking the question “how can I help?” As Henri Nouwen writes in his book The Way of the Heart: “Silence is primarily a quality of the heart that leads to ever-growing charity.”
Monika found her passion for yoga at Strala, a place she considers as yoga home immediately after her first class. When not practicing at Strala, she invests herself in discovering simple and easy ways to live a healthier lifestyle. To combine her interests in writing and healthy living, Monika contributes regularly to the Strala blog, through which she hopes to share her experience and help others in their journey to wellness.