Have you ever noticed how quiet the whole world seems to become after a heavy snow has fallen? There’s actually a scientific explanation for it. It’s because the air that gets trapped inside the mounds of fluffy white flakes acts as sound insulation, and it dampens - or even silences - all the noises that you would normally hear. Perhaps this phenomenon is part of what calls us to settle into such an appreciative stillness this time of year. There’s definitely something about peace and quiet that prompts us to think more deeply and to feel more present.
The fewer stimuli we need to process at any given moment, the better we’re able to determine what is essential and intrinsic to us and our lives. When the whole world around us is blanketed by silence, we can still hear our own thoughts and our beating hearts. In the deepest darkness, the dimmest and most distant lights shine with greater clarity, and there’s a clean backdrop for the dreams that dance in our mind’s eye. When our fingertips have been numbed by the cold and a loved one then takes our hand in theirs, we feel the warmth of that gesture far more keenly than we otherwise might. In those moments, there is a very clear distinction between what is important, and what is superfluous or superficial.
In those moments, it can be much easier to find peace. However, when the world around us becomes too noisy, we start to get distracted. This mindset then becomes harder to sustain, but it isn’t impossible. With practice, it can be more readily attainable no matter how busy the world around you. When you do find yourself having moments of peace, practice being present. Revel in it. Find the beauty and the gratitude that live there, and let yourself get well-acquainted. The better you know them, the easier they will be to find when you need them.
Cultivating a regular mindfulness practice can help you to do this. Mindfulness, in essence, is intentional awareness. It’s the practice of bringing your attention to the place and the moment that you’re in, wherever and whenever that may be. Focus on the details, such as the way your breath whispers past the back of your throat with each inhale and exhale, the texture of your shirt against your skin, or how solid the ground feels beneath your feet. Try to fill your consciousness with it.
Your mind will wander away again, but that’s okay. That’s what minds do. Try not to judge it, just gently call it back again. This is the practice; it’s not to utterly silence everything that is external and remain indefinitely in that state. The practice is to pull your mind into the moment you are experiencing, and to assure it that all the distractions can wait their turn.
You’ve got better things to focus on right now, anyway - the important things.
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