The Power of Rest

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  • Dedicated to Anna.

The Power of Rest

The classical composer Claude Debussy said, "Music is the silence between the notes." We fall under the spell of a piece of music not simply because of what we hear, but because of what we do not. The most skillful composers infuse their music with silence and rely on rests between notes to emphasize and strengthen their melodies. Without enough silence between the noise, even the most beautiful music is transformed into a disorganized cacophony.

Like great composers, we are artists busy arranging the music of our lives. Instead of writing symphonies, we orchestrate our existence with the power of our thoughts and everyday intentions. Like powerful instruments, our minds tune our lives to the rhythm of the things we choose to think. Each thought becomes like a musical note, giving order and rhythm to the soundtrack of our lives. The song we create either propels us towards our dreams or keeps us stuck in a whirlwind of harmonic dissonance.

Possibility and purpose are naturally attracted to the tone and cadence of positive thinking. When we choose our thoughts well, our souls are uplifted and resonate like tuning forks with highest goals of the Universe. But when we fill our minds with negative, discouraging thoughts, our soundtracks will be discordant rather than harmonious. Because what we think literally changes who we are, who we will become and what imprint we leave on the world, we must choose each and every one of our thoughts with the utmost care.

Buddha said, "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." Like the great composers, we should schedule periods of silence into our lives so that we can absorb the full power and meaning of our individual songs, and know when we need to make adjustments to the pitch, tone and quality of our thought life.

Mother Teresa said, "We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature- trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...We need silence to be able to touch souls." God is a friend of the music of our souls, and He, too, waits patiently for us to draw inward and find Him in the silence between the notes.

When we use time to rest and reflect on our lives, our core values and deeply held beliefs, the music we create will inevitably touch the hearts and lives of others with its beauty and power. Time spent in silence, pausing to reflect on our inner lives, also allows us to ask important questions about ourselves and our futures: Do our thoughts create a pleasing melody, or do they sound more like crashing thunder? Where do we want the symphony of our thoughts to take us? For our lives to be healthy, powerful and attuned to our highest and best purpose, we must engage daily with the power of silence and reflection and consider the truth of our inner being as lovingly and honestly as possible.

In an age of constant busyness and distraction, carving out time to pause and reflect in silence can feel disconcerting or even a bit scary. But engaging in quiet stillness and meditative reflection is not simply music for the soul, it is food for the brain; allowing our minds to switch into what researchers call default mode makes us smarter, more compassionate and resilient. Whenever we turn our focus inward by praying, reflecting, meditating or daydreaming, this default network is switched on, and keeps our minds in an active but inwardly focused state which allows us to discern the truth about who we are and how we want to live our lives without the distracting chatter of our ego. We can then move forward with what we've learned and spark positive change and growth in ourselves, and in the world around us.

Make no mistake, default mode isn't a mindless, passive or zoned-out state. Research indicates that brains in default mode are better able to make sense of highly complex, interconnected social and emotional aspects of the world. Individuals with stronger default network activity also have significantly higher IQs. When we slip into periods of quiet introspection, research suggests we develop a strong sense of compassion and understanding for ourselves and others, and will ultimately experience less anxiety, depression, attention and post traumatic stress disorders overall. Science has proven that if the quiet, reflective part of our lives is neglected, we rob ourselves of a vital opportunity to grow and we harm our overall physical and mental health.

Like notes in a musical score, our thoughts can either create pleasing harmonies or a discordant pandemonium which makes our lives unpleasant and dissatisfying. The best composers employ the value of silence to make their music lyrically powerful. Similarly, when we pause to reflect in silence, our souls will ring out in clear, true song. Their joyous refrain will be a brightly burning reflection of who we are and who we dream of becoming, and its melody will carry us through the rest of our lives in its hopeful array.

Photo: AChiBuu handmade sketches*

I hope you've enjoyed this essay. I very much thrive on connecting with readers through comments and messages, so please let me know what you think. Comment, vote and above all, please keep reading! It gives me hope and keeps me writing! :)

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