I went through an unexpected gap year. In the midst of my busy life, that period changed everything and marked my future.
I’m a calm, solitary, and meditative person, yet that period brought me a new relationship with silence. I had the opportunity to see its true face.
My gap year was not intended. For more than twenty years, I had a “growing” professional life. In the last years, I was in the office 12 hours a day. At some point, I decided to leave the role I had at that moment because of intolerable circumstances.
Suddenly, my “successful” life stopped. Because of the harsh stop, and because of other hard experiences in my life in the previous years and dreams in the drawer, I decided for a gap year, to reinvent myself. To be honest, it’s been more than twelve months, but let’s simplify.
Given my temperament, the following months have been of total isolation. Except for my wife and my mother, I rarely saw people. Your network and your friends don’t love losers, and most of them disappear. I didn’t need or want them, so it was okay.
I started blogging and dedicating myself to what matters most to me. I also had to restore everything, in my life. And find a new route.
Long days at home may be doom for somebody, but for me, it’s exactly the contrary. I need a lot of time for myself. A virtually infinite time, if it were possible.
In that context, I had the opportunity to let many layers of my fake self go. I felt small and authentic.
The spark that leads to reconstruction arrived much later, and I didn’t hurry it.
You can imagine that silence had a role.
I rarely listened to music, and I live in a relatively quiet place.
Letting so many things go, and living an extraordinary experience, made me listen to the silence in different ways.
I already knew silence, of course. It’s been my friend all my life. I’ve heard – and searched – true silence in several places. Mountains, sea, desert, country, underground. Never enough of it.
I’ll always remember the center of the Death Valley, where the only perceptible sound was a slight crackling of the salt that made up the ground.
But listening to silence in a specific moment of your life, a moment when you don’t have to worry about tomorrow, but your only focus is restoring your life, at your pace, changes everything.
Listening to silence does not only require the right attitude. It requires to be empty.
Being empty in our normal busy life is rarely true. You can be good at meditating, and you can understand what being open and receptive means. But “empty moments” don’t like to just fit in a schedule or routine. Meditating in a meditative phase of your life puts everything on the next level.
And you hear what you usually don’t hear even when you pay attention.
A simple example comes to my mind.
Once, on holiday, my wife and I daily crossed a wood to reach another point in the valley where we resided. We also sat down, sometimes, because it was a very quiet and wonderful place. But no animal was there. Except for birds, no other animals.
One day, I went there alone. I sat down, and I stayed completely quiet for half an hour. At some point, animals appeared. Several fawns and squirrels appeared and stayed with me for the rest of the two hours I stayed there.
Silence talks when you are ready to listen, and you set your life to listen. Sitting and meditating may not be enough.
But what does silence tell you?
It’s not about words. It’s mostly about feeling and observing. The less self you put in it, the more the invisible universe fills that space. The less action you put into it, the more being emerges.
I’m not speaking of spiritual experiences. That’s a different story. I’m speaking about seeing who you are, and where you are.
The moment any noise disappears, and you intentionally put your being at rest, what’s not at rest shines. You clearly see your impulse for distraction, your need for acceptance, your worries, and much more.
You see yourself small, and you feel that it’s okay.
You see reality without all the accessories that our restless mind attaches to it. And you wonder why we try to change that beauty.
One day, I awakened in the middle of the night, as usually and often happens to me. I had heard, and enjoyed, the silence of the night thousands of times before. But that silence, in the middle of my gap year, spoke like I never heard before.
We are not prepared to explain in plain words what we listen in the silence.
But we have the opportunity to see ourselves. And to let reality reach us.
The true power of silence is that it lets you see through some artifacts. One in particular: your mind.
We emerge from silence with a different attitude.
In life, things accumulate, or fragment, continuously.
But in silence, when you make layers disappear, you realize that you must choose, and then you have to fill your being again. At that point, you see that how to fill your being must be a decision, not something that just happens. That you have to pick what matters.
Anything you add changes your reality, and the reality of the others.
It’s not necessarily a matter of meditation.
It’s just about listening and seeing, not being afraid to be honest with yourself, and letting some void enter your life.
I saw it better in my gap year, but it can be done anytime.
You just need to understand that if you don’t detach your busy mind and your complicated reality from those moments of pure silence – be it exterior or interior – you won’t be able to see what matters and to see what doesn’t work in you and your life. All your hustle will be just noise. No thought will be aware, and no action will be intentional.
If you don’t manage to let your life be compatible with the presence of silence, you may stay away from what truly matters to you for the rest of your life.
What matters is there. Just, it doesn’t shout. Nor likes to appear in crowded places, like minds.