There is a very old, very simple practice that can do much to restore balance in our ever-on times. It is, simply, being quiet and not doing anything for a short period. Franz Kafka described it perfectly over 100 years ago in his poem, Learn To Be Quiet.
You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait,
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
You can start almost anywhere. Right here, perhaps. Even just a short while will have a refreshing effect.
I’m not good at meditating but find sitting in silence a pleasurable, clarifying practice. I’m always on the lookout for places especially conducive to sitting in quiet, like photographer Walt Cotten did with a chair and a bottle at Muli point. He’d drive into the Mojave desert and set up a folding chair with a bottle or a book. With that image in mind, I dragged a chair out to the edge of a ravine near the house where I was staying California. Every day, I took a few minutes to sit in…quiet.
Being quiet is not necessarily easy. It makes some people a bit uncomfortable. But if you wait through the discomfort, something happens. The world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
Mary Oliver put it another way:
And, where are you, with your ears bagged down as if with packets of sand? Listen. We all have much more listening to do. Tear the sand away. And listen. The river is singing.