We call this hamster-wheel we are on life and convince ourselves of the need to remain connected at all times, even while on “vacation” on the other side of the globe.

The sound of silence


By Carrie Lockhert

Photo by Carrie Lockhert
Photo by Carrie Lockhert

Seventy two hours disconnected from the world did me a world of good. Three full days spent in the company of my husband, our two mini dachshunds and an untold number of forest and lake critters. We hiked and hydrated, sweated and swam. We talked and listened. Listened in silence to the endless lapping of waves as they licked the sandy shore and the infrequent breezes through the pines that teased our heated brow.

But as Monday approached, homeward bound we drove to begin another week. And in a click of an instant I was back within range of a cellphone tower and my Verizon connection had me hooked into the daily scuttlebutt. In just 72 hours all marriages in the country became legal, a gentle soul had tragically passed away, houses had burned to the ground and kids in Spokane had dribbled their way through another Hoopfest.

We call this hamster-wheel we are on life and convince ourselves of the need to remain connected at all times, even while on “vacation” on the other side of the globe. But are we truly connected? Or are we simply just posting and bragging, sharing and commenting, attempting to secure our position in the social landscape?

If you know me, you know I can generally be reached by phone, email, text or social media. So I would consider myself a relatively proficient user of communication technology. Having been able to work remotely and complete my graduate degree online, I truly embrace and appreciate the flexibility that the virtual world affords. We have news and information instantly at the mere click of an app. But what have we lost? Are we listening to everything we hear, or has the cacophony become so overwhelming that we unconsciously select what gets through? Does this self-preserving, selective listening actually shut us off from connecting at a level that makes us human- connecting with our heart?

Having observed my own responses to other’s pain and cry for help with less empathy than I care to admit, I can only speak for myself. But I don’t think I am alone. I believe that like others, I connect with people on a daily basis in a very tactical, managed manner. But that doesn’t mean I have really heard what they are saying or listened to their heart with my own.

Effective communication between two people is a tricky bugger. It requires opening your ears, mind and heart more often than your mouth. But we like to talk…and talk…and talk.

About 15 years ago I attended a Buddhist meditation weekend retreat. Being a complete novice to both Buddhism and meditation didn’t seem to deter my intrigue. My intention was to learn and that I did. I learned that eating with strangers in perpetual silence was not easy. And doing so without shoveling food into your mouth was even more challenging. But I later learned that my nervous gobbling was simply my mind’s agitated response to the void of noise. Spending an entire weekend without the regular buzz of life; hum of a washing machine, background television, dog barking or telephone, was very different. In the silence I learned I can sometimes “hear” more.

Have you ever had a friend tell you they have prayed to God or prayed for guidance, but that God has not responded? Have you thought this yourself? All the mystic masters from every religion including Christianity tell us silence is where God speaks the loudest. But we need to take the first step and get off the hamster wheel world.

To communicate effectively with our friends, colleagues, neighbors and the world we need to first listen with our heart. And sometimes disconnecting and learning to be silent for one or two or maybe even 72 hours will help teach us how to truly hear.

Be Still…and Know

Be Still…and Hear

Be Still

For in the stillness and silence you will find the real world.

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Polly McMahon

Thank you so much Carrie for such a relevant and thought provoking work. Every term in every class I have an assignment where the students are required to be quiety and listen to silence for at least 15 minutes. Many of them say it is the most difficult assignment they have experienced and many do not complete it. I will share your writing with them and know it will also help them understand the importance of solitude and the profound roar of silence.

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