Silent Night: What I Observed and Learned About Myself Through 18 Hours of Silence

What I Observed and Learned About Myself Through 18 Hours of Silence- Jessica LawlorHave you ever been silent?

Really, truly silent?

Up until this past weekend, I’ve never experienced true silence. Never forced myself to remove all outside distractions and look deep within myself. To come face to face with my inner-most thoughts and accept them, as they are, without judgement.

But this past Saturday night, I was challenged. Challenged to step outside my comfort zone to try something new.

It’s likely no surprise that this challenge came from yoga teacher training.

As part of our preparation to learn about chakra six (the throat chakra) one of our homework assignments was to experience a completely silent night.

That meant:

  • No talking
  • No TV
  • No phone
  • No computer
  • No music (not even in the car)

To be completely honest, I was a little terrified of this homework assignment.

No talking? I’m a complete chatterbox.

No computer or phone? I basically live 80% of my life/career online.

No TV? I sleep with my TV on every single night, mostly just for background noise.

But despite my worries and fears, I was also really excited for this challenge. After a stressful few months and a serious period of burnout, I was looking forward to a little quiet time for reflection.

Here’s how it all went down:

After leaving yoga teacher training on Saturday evening around 5:15 p.m., I got in my car and binge-checked social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat! Check!) one last time. I turned off my phone, put it away and turned the audio in my car completely off. My 15-minute drive home instantly felt longer without the distraction of music or chatting on the phone with a friend.

Coincidentally, when I got out of my car, a neighbor a few doors down who I literally have never talked to decided that today would be the day to do that. He called out, “Hello! How are you?” as I walked toward my door and I gave him what I hope was a friendly smile, nod and wave.

After I got home, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. I found myself tidying my room…and then two hours later, my clothes were neatly folded and put away, my bed was crisply made and my bathroom was gleaming. Those two hours passed by quickly as I busied myself with decluttering and cleaning.

When I was done with cleaning, I jumped in the shower and then made dinner.

After eating dinner in silence, I settled in with the book, “Teaching People, Not Poses.” Reading was the only activity we were allowed to do, although my teacher encouraged us to be mindful of WHAT we were reading (aka NOT Fifty Shades of Grey). I decided that sticking to my yoga reading probably made the most sense here. The book was a short read and I finished it in about an hour and a half.

A little bit bored and not sure how else to occupy my time, I decided to go to sleep around 9:30 p.m.

I woke up a few times throughout the night and resisted the urge to grab my remote and turn my TV on.

After waking up early around 7 a.m., I started reading another book (normally, I’d reach for my phone here and mindlessly scroll through social media), but quickly fell back asleep. I woke up again around 10 a.m., showered, ate breakfast and got ready for another day of teacher training, which started at noon.

Once I got to teacher training, I remained silent until I was given permission to break the silence and share a bit about my experience.

18 hours of silence = complete!

Here’s what I observed and learned about myself from 18 hours of silence:

  • One of the biggest challenges throughout my night of silence was that I’m pretty sure I talk out loud to MYSELF quite a bit…especially while driving. I didn’t have a problem not talking to others; that was completely fine. However, it was much harder not to talk to myself. Who knew?
  • I had three songs stuck in my head throughout the 18 hours and OH MAN, did I want to sing them out loud. Next time you have a song stuck in your head, try to resist the urge to hum or sing. It’s tough!
  • While reading one of my yoga books, I wanted to look up a poem that was mentioned, so naturally I went to reach for my phone to Google, but quickly remembered that wasn’t allowed. Normally, I’ll type a note to myself into my phone, but that also wasn’t allowed, so instead I made a note on paper to check it out the next day.
  • It was really nice to be fully present while cooking dinner. I made chana masala, naan and rice and instead of multi-tasking, checking my phone 100 times and trying to read blogs/answer emails, I simply focused on cooking and then enjoying my meal.
  • Like I mentioned before, I sleep with my TV on. Going to bed in a completely dark and silent room freaks me out a little. When I flipped off my light and crawled into bed, I was taken aback by how very quiet the room was in that moment. It was eerily silent, but also sort of peaceful. I was surprised by how little trouble I had falling asleep, even though this completely deviated from my normal bedtime routine.
  • I have a dog and cat and I love them pretty much like they are my children. Of course, they each have their own nicknames (Boo Boo Bear, Pumpkin, etc.) and I talk to them endlessly on a regular basis. Not verbally communicating with my pets was probably the second toughest part (aside from talking to myself- ha!) of this challenge. I non-verbally communicated with my pets and was surprised at how much I was still able to communicate, especially with my dog, without talking. Animals are so intuitive!
  • Okay, let’s get real. It was super challenging to not be on my phone. This challenge made me realize just how many times throughout the day I reach for my phone to mindlessly check Instagram for the 800th time. Any moment I felt even the teensiest bored or unsure of what to do next, I found myself reaching for my phone…and not being able to do anything with it.

Overall, this experiment was NOT easy, but it was extremely eye-opening. Being alone with your innermost thoughts without distraction can be truly terrifying, yet very insightful. How often do we allow ourselves to truly FEEL? In my case, not very often.

It’s so easy to hide our troubles or gloss over them by busying ourselves with other activities, to-do list tasks, people and things. But when you’re all alone, with only your own thoughts and feelings to occupy your mind, you have no choice but to tune in and listen carefully.

Sometimes you may not like what your inner voice has to say to you, but often those are the messages you need to hear the most.

I came to some realizations during my night of silence…things I’ve been thinking about for awhile, but push away when they come to the forefront of my mind. This experiment forced me to confront those feelings; to confront myself.

I’m certainly glad that I did.

Have you ever experimented with silence? Thought about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights in the comments below!

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Meet Jessica

I live by the saying “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and help others do the same to reach their biggest, brightest goals. Read my story here.

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