If you know me personally, you know that me having nothing to say is a rare and strange life event. I ALWAYS have something to say and I am more than happy to shout you down in order to say it. I'm downright annoying (it's okay, you can agree; I live by the motto "know thyself"). I have literally had friends hold up their hands, classroom style, in order to get a word in. I live to talk.
That being said, I know that there is much to be gained by silence. By listening. I don't have all the answers and the longer I live the more I realize the less I know (wow...that's a sentence to be reckoned with...). The only way to learn more is to listen more. I know that in order to "Be still and know that I am God," I need to shut up. I agree with the theory that we should all spend a portion of our day in complete silence, mental and physical, if we are going to draw near to God, if we are going to be spiritually open to all that we have to be taught that day. I just don't do it.
For one thing, I get bored. Really bored. I am envious of those people who can spark up some incense and hum softly to themselves for an hour. They seem to be so refreshed and, well, deep. I have tried on more occasions than I could possibly name to meditate in this way. I've been successful... twice, maybe? I keep cracking my eyes open to see how much time has passed and usually it is somewhere in the range of 30 seconds to 2 minutes. I'd make a terrible Buddhist.
Some people get their quiet time in while exercising and, you would think, that as a runner I would fall into this category. I never, never, never, never, never go on a run longer than ten minutes, however, without my iPod and earbuds. My running mix is several hours long and filled with up-tempo, pounding beats intended to keep my feet moving and my mind off the pain. I end long runs feeling proud, exhilarated, even euphoric but not exactly spiritually grounded.
It is not only a poor attention span that accounts for my lack of quality quiet time, however. To be honest, silence scares me. Distractions keep it interesting, keep it all moving and keep me from having to think about things I don't want to think about. Not that those things go away; they are always lurking, ready to pounce on me at the most inopportune time possible. But I still operate under the mistaken impression that if I can just keep busy, maybe I will never have to go there again. Never have to walk down the dark corridors, never feel the lurking pain of sorrow, of loss. It doesn't work, but as an addict I am particularly fond of doing the same things over again and expecting different results.
So it was with great horror that one day, in the middle of a six mile run, my trusty iPod ran out of battery. One second I had Eminem blaring his encouragement, the next moment... nothing. Just me, the sound of my feet striking pavement, and my thoughts. There was no way around it. I was three miles from my car any which way I looked at it. I was going to have to face my fear and be quiet.
An amazing thing happened. Nothing. No sudden deluge of thought and feeling that I could not control. No three miles of embarrassing ugly-crying. I thanked God for the run, for the beauty of His creation that surrounded me, for the health of my body, and prayed for the health of my mind and spirit. Then I stopped praying and focused my mind on being still. On being quiet. Any errant thought that drifted in, I gently excused and cleared it away.
At the end of my run, I felt different. Stronger. Surer of myself. I still don't know that I would want to extend it to a two hour run or even an hour, but I think I would do well to incorporate at least one quiet run into my training schedule. It does very little good to have a fit body and a sick soul. If I'm going to do this life thing right, I need to start with the foundation and build up, not keep ignoring the cracks and hoping they aren't as bad as they look. I'm going to try to wake up earlier than my kids (this is a very ambitious goal) so that I can spend even ten minutes in the morning practicing silence. Until I get good at it. Until it comes naturally. Because I know I don't need to fear it any longer. And, strangely enough, I think the more time I spend in silence, the more I'll find that I have something to say. Something of quality, something pure and true, to share with you.