The Big Reset: What Can Two Months in Silence Teach You?
by Valerie Brown, JD, MA, PCC
Like many people and perhaps like you, the last two years with the global pandemic, the immediacy of climate crisis, the murder of George Floyd and countless others, and now the war in Ukraine has made me realize that the tension and chaos in the world isn’t ‘out there’. It’s right here in my edginess, sleeplessness, and sense of overwhelm.
I arrived at the Zen center in Santa Fe on a sunny, snowy winter day in early January at the edge of burnout and exhaustion from loss on top of crisis, on top of unprocessed and ambiguous grief. I knew I needed to stop everything, to take myself to a place of deep rest, deep silence, and deep beauty.
For the first few weeks at the Zen center, I had a near constant spasm under my left shoulder, a reflex from guarding, defending myself from whatever might come next at me. My left shoulder was hunched up around my earlobe, in a stance of self-protection, and my breath was shallow, almost imperceptible.
The Zen center surrounded by mountains and big sky became a refuge, a place to rest deeply, without having to fix, manage, or accomplish anything, to be held by caring community. I gave myself over nearly completely to silence and stillness of three to eight hours of meditation daily and walking the hills of Santa Fe.
After two months of meditation practice, stillness, and silence, winter has turned to spring and I’ve regained clarity about my life and how I want to live, about what is most meaningful. I’m clear that I, that we all need support and generally lots of it when times are hard, and I didn’t have enough support, despite having many caring friends and family. I realize now more than ever that space, lots of space is critical especially when life is complex and hard. To cultivate space it’s important to know, to have the clarity, the wisdom of when to say ‘no’ which is saying ‘yes’ to something else. At these times, ‘no’ is the most compassionate response. What did two months of silence teach me: Wisdom is knowing when to stop, to pause, to rest. When life is hard and complex, support is critical. Saying ‘no’ is saying ‘yes’ to something else, and it’s important to recognize what we’re choosing. Beauty, nature heals. Everything moves toward growth and sometimes that means knowing when to stop, to pause.