We live in a world that is designed to keep us “occupied” from our inception.
As a child of the early 80s, I was raised to believe that capitalism was the central focus of our existence. Nursing the hangover from racist colonial value systems that continued to ferment within our collective psyche long past the days of empire, the need to be noble savages dismissed the need to be still, to rest, to relax. Anything that was not productive towards the capitalist system was barbaric, a wasteful act that proved us to be “lazy good for nothing savages”.
Idolising materialistic things was a big part of childhood, dreaming of the day we would have supermarkets everywhere and drink bubbling sugar syrup from plastic bottles that we could just toss out an open window without a care in the world. Go to work and come back home, eat frozen food out of the fridge warmed in a microwave, and gobble our food as fast as possible in front of a giant TV that showed us endless reels of moving images of how one day we could live just like the white people we saw on the Idiot Box; this was the simple life sold to us wholesale, struggling to make it in the post-empire rat race marked by class divisions and ethnoreligious disharmony. The Idiot Box, of course, was inundated with Idiot Shows which were interspersed with advertisements that showed us what to eat, what to buy, and how we should look and feel, caricatures of whiteness acted out by brown bodies that made it just palatable enough to be an aspiration.
Our Programming (read: formal education) was to swallow this sugar-coated bitter pill that our life was to be lived in service of the empire where hard work in an office or a prestigious job that had us wearing shirts and ties and coats in tropical weather was the very pinnacle of human life. It was a ‘success’ that barbarians who were not privy to. If only they worked hard enough they would not have to slave in the mud and toil in the unseen cracks, you think, adjusting a tie too hot for the Lankan tropics in an air-conditioned building where a lush, cool wetland once flourished. There is no sensitivity for the barbarians and their labor to provide the people who did “the work” what they needed at the click of a button so life on earth would run seamlessly into the increasingly ailing planet we inhabit today.
During my time In the corporate world, a moment's rest was looked down upon. work was paramount and nothing was allowed to be in its way. This lifestyle we inherited through the generations has now left us depleted, exhausted, and sick to the bone. Realistically, people are expected to work for most of their life in order to save up for material comforts: few fancy holidays in sterile environments where we stand in line at excessive buffets to gorge on endless amounts of food that we could not possibly digest over a weekend.
You may find the first 2 paragraphs hard to read but looking at our lives today we can say “It’s hard to do any living”. The constant need to have too much and the promise of everything has left us in a state of constant anxiety and panic. We are surrounded by so much noise and clutter that the sight of a lush green forest frightens us, and the sweet perfume of Petrichor is unknown to us, stepping our feet onto the very soil that births the food that nourishes us - feels disgusting. We have lived lives in constant motion surrounded by an ocean of noise and it has come to a point that we are failing as a species because we have numbed ourselves to the point that we can't hear ourselves. We have disconnected ourselves from our roots and silenced our hearts so that we may live a full life outside of these amazing bodies we have inherited.
When I left corporate life for a life in nature, by the ocean, I thought I wanted silence and peace and a tranquil life. But instead, the silence made me anxious. Sitting by the ocean and having a swim made me feel worthless & all I could do was drown myself in booze and parties, neither of which yielded the answers to the questions that really mattered - Why do I feel like this? Why am I a living contradiction? Why don't my actions align with my heart's desires?
The promise of yoga when it found me stood for this message. It also taught me that the real “work” I had to do was to find this union of my mind, body, and soul. But, my very first baby step into the realm of my own healing would be to listen - to truly listen to what lies within me. To do that I needed to create a strong friendship with Silence and Stillness. To be patient with the noise that came flooding out of me, to sit with the discomfort of everything I was running away from, to address and stand before me with integrity - these were the fruits of my new friendships. At first, it was cool to take selfies of myself meditating and only just sit for a few seconds because it was excruciating to do nothing cause I feared that I would become nothing! A bum! Worthless! Unwanted and soon-to-be unloved and forgotten. So I made excuses not to meditate. I would wake up early set up my mat take a picture for Instagram, and just settle down comfortably into scrolling through the internet at 6 am with a large cup of coffee.
Somehow this spiral I was in gave me a shock in the form of physical injury that came through an accident and a slap in the form of my 3-year-old daughter refusing to come home with me as she said that I had “angry eyes” that scared her. This was the answer I needed. I looked in the mirror that day and confronted the sad angry man that refused to look at himself. And I cried. I took notes about myself and I realized that I need to be kinder, gentler, and more loving to myself. Not to push me but to listen to who I truly am and let that shine. Art was therapeutic for me, and art became my first meditative practice - drawing geometric circles brought me peace, and coloring each circle and shape with awareness sharpened my conscious mind. Art led me to appreciate peace and allowed me to see myself reflected in what I created. Each stroke and color had meaning and the silence soon became something I cherished. I learned that with Silence I was beginning to love myself and my time with myself. I started seeing things in detail and meaning, I began to appreciate nature in the same light and see myself reflected in nature, and I was able to get in touch with the rhythm of my world and my body.
Engaging in a creative outlet was and will always be meditation for me. It gave me the strength and courage to sit with my discomfort and channel it towards something positive and then let it go. Meditation is this process of mindful awareness and creating space by letting go of what we no longer require. It is almost like we become space. We are vessels that carry souls, and the soul needs only to breathe and grow. Creativity led me to engage with Silence and Stillness in a way I never thought possible, and it led me to find myself and what was truly important to me: my life on this planet, this human experience that requires me to live to my fullest potential.
Silence is truly a Godlike force that contains all the answers we seek. Stillness is a lifelong friendship with Silence, it's the greatest benefit of cultivating a deep meaningful connection with Silence. A true friend is not someone we put on a pedestal and venerate, it is someone who walks beside us and sits across from us and looks us in the eyes when we have something to share and just simply listens. We must be that friend to ourselves and it can start with just one deep breath.
Rest is an act of revolution, Silence is the new black - try it.