When we sit in silence

It is usually when we sit in silence that the weight of the world becomes noticeable. That all our worries, anxieties and fears can be felt most acutely. It is the time when we are closest to ourselves because we allow ourselves to hear our thoughts and feel those feelings that are always there but that we usually quiet down.

Life is an endless stream of distractions. We scroll through social media, play games, watch TV shows, meet friends, busy ourselves with the daily tasks live imposes upon us. And, of course, there’s work. All of it seems to be distraction. None of it seems to serve a purpose. Other than distracting us.

I mean, honestly, do you feel as if any of it serves a purpose? Is there any meaning to any of it? Do we feel fulfilled by playing a random somewhat addictive game on our mobile phones? Is the work you’re doing satisfying? Do you enjoy going to your job every day? Or even some of the time at least?

There are several problems here.

First, does anything have to have a purpose? And what purpose do we speak of? Do we want to change the world? Do we want to leave something meaningful behind? And what does it mean in the grand scheme of things anyway?

Come to think of it, there is a lot to unpack here.

Honestly, when you begin to think any of this, and you ask all these questions you will never get to the end of it. You can keep asking all these questions about the meaning of life and not find a satisfying answer. No answer that can possibly apply to everyone anyway. These are things we must figure out for ourselves. I believe that the purpose of the thing is whatever this thing is made for. The purpose of a violin is to play it. It doesn’t mean that we have to play it well or that we need an audience to play. It simply matters that we play.

Similarly, whatever idea you choose, whatever thing you look at, the purpose is right in front of you. You do not need to make more of it than there is. Just that we don’t need to search for meaning where there might not be one. Not everything we do is meaningless. Playing a game can be a means of rest and recreation. Watching a TV show is a way of shutting down our brains (somewhat). Simply doing nothing can have its own meaning or purpose. Not everything needs to revolve around saving the world. Or having a job that has an impact. Sometimes the purpose of a job is simply to earn enough money to have a roof above our heads. To pay the bills.

In the grand scheme of things none of it is going to matter anyway. Which means we might as well try and be happy with what we have, with what we can do, with the people in our lives and the work we do. Because we only get so much time and in 100 years from now nobody will remember us maybe not even in 10 years. And we have to be okay with that.

So, I guess the second aspect to consider is to stop asking these questions. What is the meaning of it? What is the purpose? It is what we make of it anyway. Asking these questions doesn’t help. It serves very little purpose actually. It only drives us mental. Every once in a while, it is useful to check in with ourselves. To ask whether we are happy with what we’re doing, whether we find meaning in what we’re doing. But we must always be aware that none of it truly matters in the end. So, no we don’t have to change the world. But we can contribute to making it a better place. At the very least, not making it worse. That counts too.

The thing is, we are much more aware of the world at large. We don’t just sit in our little villages never knowing more than a few dozen people and more than the patch of land we live on. Our world is simultaneously restricted to our immediate environment and as wide as the horizon. We see the stars and know how insignificant we are. That means suffering from an existential crisis or existential dread seems to be much more common among us today than it was even 100 years ago. If you are self-aware and aware of the world around you, there is a weight associated with that that is hard to shake and sometimes difficult to carry.

Oddly, it is by scrolling through social media that you will find that you’re not alone. That there are so many other people who feel exactly like that, who share their thoughts about their own existential dread, search for meaning, and feeling of insignificance.

We’re all alone. And it is when we sit in silence that we feel it most dreadfully. But we’re also all in this together. We can find purpose, if even just for ourselves and not the world at large. We can give meaning to everything we do, even though it might not matter to anyone else.

And yes, I’ve been feeling like this a lot lately. I haven’t found all the answers yet. I do feel like I am making some progress, though. Spiritual growth is a long journey as well.

Mantra

I don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, but like all of us, there are situations that leave me feeling anxious. I can identify that feeling and its causes rationally. I can confront the thoughts, fears, or worries behind that anxiety at their deepest and most honest level. And that really is not always easy.

But I still can’t make the feeling stop. It’ll pass eventually. Usually thanks to some distraction or another, which might be a light-hearted comedy or simply work. Music or a walk can help as well.

Sometimes, when it feels most urgent, I sit and breathe. I’m just trying to let go of the feeling, the thoughts that caused it, the fears underneath it all.

And I tell myself these things:

I am okay. (Repeatedly)

I am here now.

I’m not in the past. And not in the future.

I am only here now.

Everything will be alright.

I’m here in this moment, which is all I have and nothing else matters.

I keep breathing. And repeating these things as a sort of mantra as much as necessary. It doesn’t really help with how I feel, but it stops my thoughts from running away, which is helpful.

What is important is that I look inside not outside. I can’t change how someone treats me, talks to me, or ignores me when I would hope for something different. I have very little influence on the outside world, especially beyond my immediate surroundings.

I can only look inside and figure out what is going on there. Thankfully, I do know myself very well and opt for complete honesty. Admittedly, there are times I’d rather lie to myself as it would just be easier. But easy doesn’t help.

Sometimes it would be nice to receive assurance and/or clarity from an outside source. Sometimes friends can provide that. But I try not to be reliant on that because friends can’t always be there.

Nobody said caring for ourselves would be easy. And I cannot imagine just how difficult it might be for someone suffering from an anxiety disorder.