SILENCE: The Practice of Waiting

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There is silence and beauty in the most unexpected ways. Union Square, San Francisco, CA


There is silence and beauty in the most unexpected ways.
Union Square, San Francisco, CA

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Silence by Don Lifto

Sweet silent soul work;

Solace…weary spirit rest.

Miracles abound.

I am introverted by nature. Not to be confused with shyness, (although I am somewhat shy as well) introversion has more to do with where you are most comfortable and satisfied – in the world with many or alone in what philosopher Soren Kierkegaard characterized as a search for truth and meaning in “passionate inwardness.” Introversion also does not mean one is a hermit or would be happy stranded on a forgotten island talking to the seagulls. The fact that introversion has historically been perceived as less desirable than extroversion explains why introverts, when the subject comes up in conversation, often slip into default explanations of what it is not rather than proudly affirming the immarcescible satisfaction in being alone.

Introversion also does not necessarily translate to awkwardness or withdrawn behavior at the proverbial cocktail party. Most introverts can “buck it up” and do what needs to be done in social situations large and small. What it does mean is that events of these types will drain their energy, as they push themselves to interact in ways or for lengths of time that do not happen naturally or provide inherent satisfaction. Introverts might enjoy the party, but will be tired and ready to go home before their extroverted compatriots who miraculously gain energy through their social interactions much like a plane getting refueled in midair.

When not alone immersed in “passionate inwardness,” introverts do their best relationship work when one-on-one (second best two-on-one, and inversely less comfortable as the number grows). It is not unusual for introverts to display almost gregarious behavior when interacting with just one or a small number of friends. If you watch carefully you will witness a gradual quieting from your introverted friend as the room begins to fill up with others. Or, you might see the introvert turning his or her attention conversation to one person nearby.

Studies abound on this topic, not only probing the differences between introverts and extroverts (and endless variations on the theme along the continuum between) but also evaluating gender differences within this context. Professor Timothy Wilson, in a 2014 study published in the Journal of Science, discovered that men, as a group, would rather endure an electrical shock than spend extended periods of time alone while their minds wandered in quiet contemplation – two thirds of them would choose the shock instead! Three quarters of woman, in stark contrast, would be happy in a quiet, meditative state. Happily, I will pass on the electricity – for introverts like me miracles do abound in “sweet silent soul work,” healing the spirit and providing rich soil for growing the soul.

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