Listen to the Quiet

It’s easy to be busy — busy with people, noise, work, problems. And it’s good to work hard, hustle, and be productive. But we need downtime. We need to listen to the quiet.

And so, I took a walk at the beach. I was content taking photographs, listening to the waves, feeling the sun on my face, and tasting the salt air.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ― Ansel Adams

Writers Need Rest

Tonight, I knew I was coming up against my own deadline of publishing Saturday morning at 9:15 a.m. And, for my day job, I write.

Tweets, Facebook posts, point of view documents, persuasive content, informative content, technical pieces, editing, proofreading. There’s so much writing. And that doesn’t even count the conversations I have that are heavily edited. 😉

And we forget that as creators, we also need to consume. So, I watch Gary Vaynerchuk’s shows and WordPress shows and even comedies on the Internet. I watch documentaries on Netflix, and movies, and even cartoons. I laughed, I cried, it moved me.

But if we never have moments with true quiet, how can we think? And when I say think I mean to deeply consider, meditate, and ponder.

Consumption requires reflection. And we’ve already agreed that creation requires consumption. So, it’s logical to presume that creation requires reflection. So, when do we just stop talking and listen?

Get out of the house.

Okay, so I live in an apartment, but you get it. Sometimes, I hang with my friends and we go for a walk at the harbor. But that’s not the same, is it? I mean, it can do you a world of good — believe me.

But I feel like we don’t value being alone — outside — in nature.

And our times spent at the beach, or riding our bike, or enjoying some other outdoor activity is often seen as frivolous and unproductive.

So, what if I told you our brains crave nature?

Science said so.

What should be obvious to us — taking a walk to give your mind a break — is being heavily studied and written about lately. Of course, getting away from your computer helps you solve problems. We are so worried about our brains being 100% active that we forget what happens when we enjoy our surroundings.

“A few years ago, for example, in an experiment similar to Bratman’s, Stephen Kaplan and his colleagues found that a 50-minute walk in an arboretum improved executive attention skills, such as short-term memory, while walking along a city street did not.” National Geographic Magazine

Case in point. I thought I had nothing to say tonight. But just one hour walking at the beach and watching the sunset — without earbuds — allowed my brain to focus on “nothing.” Instead of forcing myself to come up with an idea and work on one of my neglected drafts, It came to me.

I saw a man, sitting on the beach, alone. He was outstretched. His legs were open to the sea. His arms were open wide. He was still. And it occurred to me — we don’t listen to the quiet enough. How are we supposed to think of brilliant ideas when we never stop the noise?

“Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination – repetitive thought focused on negative emotions – decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment.” Rob Jordan

Art said so.

It’s hard not to think of Ansel Adams, Robert Frost, and Henry David Thoreau when we think of art and nature.

One inspires the other.

The words, the photographs, the paintings. They reflect nature and nature’s affect on us. And we practice seeing beauty in the ordinary — joy in the routine.

And so, our minds rest, relax, and consume. It consumes that which many believe is the truest — nature.

Take a Walk. Then Create.

Spend some time alone — not listening to a podcast or music or talking to your friend. Listen to the wind, the birds, the ocean. No matter where you live, you have beauty around you.

Consume that.

Consume nature.

You’ll never regret it.

 

7 Comments

  1. Carol Stephen on August 20, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    Dear Bridget,

    I love this so much. When I need a break, I watch the birds and squirrels outside. It may seem simple, but there is so much drama and playfulness. They jump and hide and chase and fly. Even five minutes outside on the deck is rejuvenating.

    Your pictures are beautiful.

    Thanks for writing this!

    Carol

    • Bridget Willard on August 20, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      Good idea. I live on the second floor and outside of my balcony I can see pine trees. It’s a good break in the afternoon. Thank you.

  2. Tess Wittler on August 21, 2016 at 8:57 am

    How true your words are. I feel like as creators, we are often required to be in a (nearly) constant state of thought – so much so that our brains never get a chance to rest.

    (I’ve felt like that all summer for a variety of reasons).

    This past week, I shut off. I didn’t watch television. I stayed off of FB. I didn’t read any work-related stuff. It took me 5 days just to get my brain to quiet so I could appreciate beauty again. What this tells me is that I need to take more breaks, as you suggest.

    • Bridget Willard on August 21, 2016 at 9:54 am

      I believe it. In my research for this article, one of the authors said it takes three days to fully recharge. So you instinctively did what you should. Get some rest, my friend.

  3. Muhammad Muhsin on November 9, 2020 at 2:20 am

    Hello Bridget,

    I absolutely enjoyed reading this piece! I also go for long walks along the beach, alone without earbuds or chatter. It truly is rejuvenating. Thanks for writing this!

    • Bridget Willard on November 9, 2020 at 5:24 am

      It makes a huge difference for me. I spend all day listening to something or reading articles. Thanks for sharing your experiences with me.

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