The relief of not having to explain yourself Nov 2023

Have you ever socialised with a group of people very different from yourself? A different nationality perhaps, a different social class, a different educational or career context?  Conversation can be quite laboured, particularly in the beginning, because, for the sake of understanding each other, you must give a background precis: some context, to the point you are trying to make before you even launch into a real conversation. This can also occur with people very similar to your background, people who are small minded, clicky and they just want to talk to each other, about themselves. We’ve all been here and it’s exhausting.

Even in ideal social situations, conversation with others is like a dance, or a game of chess. We correlate and adjust our behaviour according to how others act. We don’t think about it much, because such behaviour has become fairly automatic, but every second we’re watching for and responding to others’ cues and deciding how to act based on social norms. We have to listen, to show interest, to check inappropriate comments. We must be proactive but also defensive: at any time someone may insult, embarrass, confuse, or manipulate us, and we must keep our guard up against these potential attacks. And we must do all this, while making our efforts seem effortless! Even when you’re around those who allow you to “be yourself,” social interaction demands great vigilance and requires a high level of energy and control.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we are social animals and talking with others is important for fun, community, and mental health.  But ceaseless immersion in society is exhausting and drains us. We need to break away from the crowd now and again and find rest from orienting our thoughts and behaviours in reference to other people. We need to be able to let down our defences and re-establish ourselves with no reference to what the herd wants. We need time to identify what we actually want, what we believe in without being influenced by the expectations of society or your social group. This is the real you, this is the emergence of your inner wisdom.

Welcome to Silence! When you go silent for a while, it could be a few hours to a few days (or 40 days in the desert if you were Jesus!) it’s a little alien in the beginning. You seem to be chatting to the person in your head, a lot. And often that person is negative, likes to ruminate on all the dramas in your life and would love to take you down the path of “poor me”.  And then that person shuts up and suddenly, the world explodes around you in technicolour. The sky is bluer, the trees jump out at you in every conceivable shade of green, the birdsong is sweeter, and you start to feel a rising joy as you realise you were part of this technicolour world all along. In fact, its inside you, you just had to go quiet for a while.

When we can go silent and inwards, we affirm our independent identity and existence, and we temporarily reject the law of the herd. The re-charging spark of silent solitude is needed by all. Extroverts may need less, and introverts more, but neither group can entirely do without. And then if you add to this special place, tools to help you meditate and quiet the mind, slow breath, and the heartbeat, you will start to manifest and map out that life you’ve always dreamed of. It’s no wonder the greatest inventors, greatest minds and greatest spiritual beings are huge fans of silence, meditation and going inwards. As Mother Teresa said: “See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Love and namaste Margot

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