The Perils of Quiet Living

Over the many months of coping with the pandemic, I’ve been watching the enormous discomfort so many people feel about living a quiet life at home, with little social interaction. And the degree to which scary numbers are willing to risk their lives and/or the lives of others by going to parties, restaurants, bars, etc. in order to alleviate that discomfort. As one who already lived a fairly quiet and solitary life, I haven’t felt the impact from the isolation too much. But I used to be one of the ones who had to be out doing stuff all the time, keeping every moment busy. So I think I have some insight into the discomfort.

We in this country (possibly others, but I won’t speak for them), most people have trouble being alone and or living a quiet, contemplative life. The myths of the “pursuit of happiness” lead far too many of us to feel our lives must constantly reflect “happiness” and to seek “highs” and excitement that at least looks happy. Sitting still often means having time to reflect, time when buried issues arise, when thoughts about less happy aspects of life show up. Quiet invites inward exploration and grappling with issues.

As a young adult I unconsciously carried a vast array of buried issues. I had to be working, studying, talking on the phone with someone or going out to restaurants, parties, clubs, etc. all the time. I had no idea why I felt this desperate need to never stop, I just ran and ran and ran.

Health issues wound up slowing me down. Fortunately I’d landed on a spiritual path, so the path of healing became one of also contemplating and exploring: what about my inner world was creating this outer world? How did this set of symptoms/problems flow from my beliefs and emotional underpinnings? Once I moved far enough along the path I realized I’d been running from these questions and explorations all along. Also could see that being finally knocked so flat I couldn’t help but sit and be quiet was the outcome of shoving down all those emotions and thoughts.

It’s taken me years to reach the place where I not only sit with ease in quiet and silence but to welcome those uncomfortable feelings as they arise. It’s the opportunity to acknowledge them, explore them and let them go. And with the letting go comes freedom and more ease.

As I watch people rebelling against lockdowns, staying home, being quiet, I feel I understand that impulse to run around instead. But I see the pandemic as an opportunity to look inward, to heal old wounds, to become more free from within instead of looking for freedom to arrive from without.