Silence: The Richness of Its Meaning and Its Significance

Silence: complete absence of sound; from Latin: silere and from old French: silence; muteness, still, stillness (Oxford Dictionary)

In my last post, I asked anyone who stumbled upon my blog what silence meant to them and how it made them feel. For me, I used to immediately think of my two most favourite places: the beach and the library. After I posted that question here and on my Facebook wall, to my surprise and disappointment, I was met with, well, silence. A virtual kind of silence if you will, as there was no reply or reaction to my post save one like from a friend on Facebook.  I waited a day, thinking that my friends would be clamouring to share their thoughts with me. I was reminded by a friend I confided to that silence is a tough subject for most people to talk about, let alone share what they feel about it. I’ll be the first to step out and share, and, who knows, maybe anyone reading this will be able to relate or connect with me.

I experienced this silence that day and decided to sit with it and lean into it, to explore and understand it. I met Silence’s companions, Loneliness and Disconnectedness/Isolation. I felt hurt and afraid. I realized that I’ve felt this way before and have usually taken to distracting myself from it by eating sweets or reading a fluffy book or something like that. Anything to feel good again. In those moments the next day after posting I asked myself some tough questions. Some of those tough questions for me were, “Why do you run from these feelings by eating sweets, watching Netflix, or reading fluffy books or bumbling around on your smart phone? Why do you try so hard to suppress, distract, and run away from them? What are you afraid of?” Put simply, because, it hurts. Even though I logically know that the feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness/isolation are temporary and must be experienced, I still run from them out of fear and hurt.

Well, I spent the past few days reflecting on these things and on silence itself. I had a couple of close friends share their thoughts with me eventually this week and I felt privileged. Thank you to those who shared their thoughts with me. I felt connected and I felt joy to be able to read or listen to each of you. So, what’s all this fuss about silence anyway?

I looked up what silence or stillness means in a few different contexts such as, music, religion, and Oxford definitions and etymologies. I was inspired by how in Judaism, there are at least six different forms of silence. It gave such a richness and depth to the meaning of silence/stillness for me personally.  Here’s a quote from his blog post:

“Silence can be sweetly contented, like the quiet (domem) of a weaned child (Ps. 131:2). Silence can be anticipatory, like the soul’s silent (dom) alertness awaiting God (Ps. 37:7). Silence can be submissive, like the silent knowing (vayidom) of core truth (Lam. 3:28). Silence can evoke awe, like the “total quiet” before the splitting of the Sea of Reeds (Ex. 14:14). Silence can invite holiness, like the soul’s stillness (dumyah) that heralds deliverance (Ps. 62:2). More than inviting holiness, silence can be holiness itself: to the prophet Elijah, God emerged not in the noise and tumult but in a “still small voice” (kol d’mamah dakah) (1 Kings 19:12).”

(Check out Rabbi David Evans Markus’s blog here to read his full post on his thoughts if you’re interested.)

I was most intrigued and inspired by the idea of silence being holy or sacred itself. If silence can be all of these wonderful and beautiful things, why do we run from it and in essence ourselves? If you think you’re alone in running from such feelings as boredom or loneliness or disconnectedness, check out People would rather be electrically shocked than left alone with their thoughts article. More than just knowing we’re not alone in this discomfort, I was disturbed by this study’s results. People actually were so uncomfortable with their own selves, their thoughts, that they’d rather electrocute themselves was very sad to me.But I realized, it wasn’t any different than me running from silence by binging Netflix shows or goofing around mindlessly on my phone.

We mustn’t run from silence, ourselves, when we encounter such times. I think that it means to be wholly human to experience these feelings, to lean into them, and to explore them. Maybe even we could take a step further and accept them. Radical, eh? I believe we’d be more whole and satisfied with life moment by moment if we let in the silence and maybe even accepted it. What do you think? What would that look like for you in your own personal life?

Oh yeah, here

and here

and here

and here

and still yet, here

are a few songs I enjoyed listening to that were about silence. I hope you enjoy them as well when you’ve the time and thank you for taking the time reading my post. My next post will be about what environmental/design psychology is and, as previously mentioned before, I’ll conclude with a separate wrap up post of how silence and environmental/design psychology are connected and their importance to us.

 

 

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Reflections on the Relationship Between Silence and Environmental Psychology

Erling Kagge, a prominent lawyer, author, philosopher, and father to three teenagers in Oslo, Norway, has inspired me with his work, Silence: In the Age of Noise. As I previously mentioned in my last post, I began reading this book and I also began researching environmental psychology, design psychology- something of interest to me for a while but have never had time to delve fully into it as I’ve been buried in my studies at uni. But here we are, and what I’ve learned so far is that the spaces and places we create or encounter and interact with have a huge impact on us (and vice versa). Silence (or stillness) is a rare commodity these days and is something we don’t always engage in out of fear of ourselves and what we’d have to learn. I believe that we should be creating spaces and places where we can slow down and engage with the silence, engage with ourselves being therefore able to fully engage with each other and God. Why? Let me elaborate what good silence/stillness can be for us in a separate post. In a following post, I’ll elaborate on what environmental psychology is and why it’s important to us. Finally, in a concluding post, I’ll wrap it all up and show how they’re connected and why it all matters. For now, I’d love to know what you think of when you hear silence? What do you feel? Please share with me in the comments or in a Facebook message or in an email.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer’s End and Final Semester’s Nearing

This past Sunday was my last day working on the two Spanish courses over this summer. The past two months have been filled with mostly grueling Spanish course work crammed into eight weeks. As I shared with a friend recently, I feel strange now that those courses are over. They said it’s like a drifting feeling until the next challenge comes. I’m not much for drifting. I immediately think of driftwood when hearing the word drift. Driftwood is tossed about aimlessly, chaotically, without any direction or purpose. Man, do I chafe at this feeling of drifting. My counsellor would say to accept the feeling, notice it, and sit with it. Of course, instead, I’ve chosen to fill my remaining time with researching environmental psychology, how spaces and places affect us, our mental health. I’ve also been reading the two latest books by Erling Kagge, Silence: The Age of Noise, and Walking: One Step At a Time. At first, I thought these three things weren’t related at all and that I need to chill out. But, as I began reading the two books and reading scientific articles and news articles about environmental psychology, I realized they’re related- especially the book, Silence. I’ll be more than happy to post more in depth about this relation and what I’ve gleaned from my readings soon.

For now, I must also learn to balance my time. I have a tendency to go all or nothing when it comes to my studies or my hobbies. My California cousins have been in town for the past week and a half and we’ve been having a marvelous time together. The last hurrah activity is this Saturday and is a surprise. We’ll have a great time I’m sure of it!

I move back into the dorms next week and will begin my mentor training and embark on my final semester. It feels stupendous to write that this is my final semester. It also feel scary as I’m a perfectionist at times and am afraid of messing up this semester academically. But, as I take each day at a time, I’m hopeful things will go well. Until next time everyone.

Spring/Summer 2019

Here I am now on a hot summer evening sitting in the family room with my parents. The fan is whirling around at a rapid pace to keep us cool and creates a soft and gentle whooshing sound in the background. As I sit here, I realize it’s been quite a long time since I last wrote. Uni has been consuming most of my time. Spring semester was a bit rocky but I finished well. I went on a hiking trip with some people I met from my school. We went to Maine, New York, Vermont, and saw Niagara Falls on both sides of the borders. I was homesick the whole time. I greatly missed my family and when I returned, I was relieved to be home again. I didn’t want to go back to work at McDonald’s and instead wished to do something different. I applied to a bunch of places for receptionist positions and to camp counsellor positions as well. I even applied to work in the Amazon warehouse. Long story short, I work for Amazon as a sort associate and even though the work is mindless, I rather enjoy it. I don’t feel stressed or pressured to perform perfectly or be “on” all the time making sure others are happy and fed properly. I scan packages off of the conveyor belt and scan them to their assigned pallets for about four to five hours each shift. It’s pretty great.

When I’m not working at the warehouse, I’m spending time completing grueling Spanish homework for my summer courses I signed up for this season. I just have to power through them because that’s how I’m going to graduate this fall. That’s right, the end is finally near and here for my bachelor’s degree! I’m very excited about it! I just have to get through this last fall semester and then that’s it for about one to two years….then I’ll go back and get my master’s in mental health counselling. But the one to two year break will be much needed and greatly appreciated. I’m hoping I can work full time as an admissions counsellor and spend time visiting old friends. For now, I just need to get through this Spanish course!

South Dakota Trip, Creative Projects, and Such…

It’s been 8 months since I last posted. A lot has happened between now and then. My sweet Grandma passed away and had gone to be with God, my GrandDad spent Christmas with us, and the New Year came into being quietly for me as I couldn’t stay awake for the first time in years.

I took a part time job working at H&R Block as a receptionist while I got my health under control and manageable. Once the tax season ended in April, the hunt for another job began. After applying to many places, I decided to go back to my old standby: McDonald’s. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle it well since it’s a stressful atmosphere but, being stable has perks, including being able to do my job well and (gasp!) even enjoy it! I currently have been working there and loving my role as Guest Experience Leader, being the hostess and chatting with our guests, making sure they have an awesome experience.

In April, we celebrated Easter with my Uncle Kurt and my sweet twin cousins, Brooke and Kaitlyn. We had a blast with them, going bowling, playing at the arcade, decorating eggs, and showing them around downtown Chicago.

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Later on in April, my family and I went on a road trip to South Dakota, just the four of us, to enjoy some quiet time away from the world in a cute, spacious log cabin in the middle of nowhere. The scenery was breathtaking. We even saw bison and their babies! It was also the perfect excuse to wear my cowboy boots everyday 😉

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We also saw Mount Rushmore up close and personal:

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What a great time spent with family relaxing. 🙂

Some News

So, as many of you know, I’ve been preparing to head back to university this fall and most  believe that it is to Trinity Western University. However, because of finances and needing to be closer to my mental health care team and family, I’ve chosen to apply and have been accepted to Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois. I thought that making this decision to  transfer (again…ugh) would totally bum me out yet, I find myself at peace and pretty amped up to start off fresh in a new place; I’m excited to see what new things I’ll learn and get to explore. To my close friends in Canada, I’ll miss you and I dearly hope I’ll see you again sooner rather than later (keep in touch too with me!). To my future friends in Dekalb, I hope we get up to some crazy, fun adventures together while getting to know each other. I appreciate prayers from all and warm wishes on this new expedition to corn country… and I’ll try to be better at posting 😉

Small Moments Build Up to Something Beautiful

Lately, I’ve been down on myself. I’ve had getting my driving licence as one of my main goals this summer and I haven’t reached it yet. I’ve fallen into the ‘let’s compare myself with others’ trap too. Everyone else seems to have it all together and I’m still plodding along, little old me. What have I done?  I moaned about this to my counsellor a couple of weeks ago since I’m going to be meeting up with an old high school friend. It’s so silly of me and insecure of me as well (so what else is new, eh?). But, I got to thinking of all things I have done and I surprised myself. I’ve travelled all over the Pacific Northwest, seen California on a road trip (where I drove!), Oregon, Washington, and Iowa. I’ve been to the national rain forest, Annacis Island, and to beautiful British Columbia where I hiked Mount Seymour. I’ve seen aquariums- both natural and artificial- and I’ve been to concerts for Flogging Molly and Creedence Clearwater Revival. I’ve studied two years of applied linguistics; dabbled in political science, TESOL,  and learned how to properly say hello, my name is Jennifer, thank-you, in Mandarin (among other things). I’ve partnered with refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan and Ukraine through tutoring them in English and taking the citizenship test. I’ve partnered with the homeless in Spokane by walking with them literally daily and learning about their choices and dreams. And, I’ve met and built relationships and shared life lessons and learned some life lessons in turn from the people I’ve come across along the way throughout the years. I’ve adventured to physical places since 2010 and it’s only recently that I’ve come to know the adventure that is stability and of knowing myself. Upon reflection, I don’t always appreciate this new adventure nor do I even like it sometimes but, an adventure it is. I’m learning to live faithfully with uncertainty and to find moments during the day that might be considered small or insignificant yet build to something spectacular and beautiful.

I work at McDonald’s as a crew person and am still working on getting my licence and Bachelors’ degree.

I used to think that was all I am and all I can experience throughout the day. I limited myself in this box of ‘not yet arrived’ as if there really will be a point of ‘arriving’.  I used to believe this silly idea that once I attain that driving licence and that degree, I’ll have arrived and be super fulfilled and happy.

It’s simply not true. I’ve been learning to find joy, happiness, and fulfillment in the little things right now not far off in the future.

The first few moments in the morning as the sun filters through my curtains and fills my room with a warm, calming glow brings me peace as I begin my day; the conversations I have with my regulars as I pour them their usual cup of coffee are the highlight of my days at work. Roy, he likes his coffee with 6 creams and has a brother in law in the hospital and a sick, bedridden wife at home. He is also an artist and will spend his time sipping on his cups of coffee and doodling while chatting with the others he meets up with at the restaurant. Then, there are Louann and Jerry. They’re a sweet couple who comes in everyday and orders the same thing but the conversations we have are as varied as the flowers in a garden. Then there’s the elderly mother and son duo who come in once a week. She likes to share what she’s decorating in her home lately and her son just smiles and rolls his eyes. My heart and spirit are nourished when I see my ninety-year-old regular come in. She is a sweet old woman who will hold my hand and remind me to be and stay beautiful on the inside and how to live a balanced life. Her pearls of wisdom are something I cherish. The moments of a goofy remark or smile from my co-workers lift me up when it’s a particularly frustrating day and the warm embrace from my Mom and Dad when I return home fill my heart up. My Mom always does her best to make this house feel like home.

I don’t know what all of these moments ultimately build up to exactly but, I believe they’re something beautiful. Who knows? I’ll just have to stick around and see this new adventure through, this adventure of noticing and cherishing the seemingly small and insignificant things.

What about you? Do you notice anything that seems small or insignificant at first glance in your life that can be a build up to something beautiful? Do you feel like you limit yourself too with the box you’ve put yourself in? I’d love to hear or read about it in the comments below or if you’d like to message me through email or Facebook messenger, please do!