“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” — Ram Dass

Where I sit is familiar. The rocks are jagged and hard but call out to me. That’s because they are hidden. In a place where there’s no one around, these rocks become a friend, a sanctuary where everything is quiet. I’ve been here many times before but every visit is a new experience. And despite their unappealing aesthetics, the rocks feel like a space where I can just be. It feels like time and the world is moving on without me, and I’m happy to let it go. Because I’m in no hurry today. And I’m finally listening.

The title and quote above are from a recent meditation session I had on the Calm app. And while I am somewhat skeptical when it comes to the universe trying to tell me something, the timing of it is suspicious. That’s because I’ve spent a lot of time in silence lately. Just listening. Being quiet. Listening to what needs to be heard. Although I’ve listened to others, I haven’t really taken the time to hear. And there is a big difference. But once you start to give attention to what’s being said over and over about yourself, you realize that there is something to what other people are telling you.

I’ve also listened to myself and my thoughts. Those thoughts are telling me something also — something that I really didn’t want to hear. They’ve brought clarity on ideas I had about myself and who I thought I was, and also the world around me. The people around me.

But most importantly, it’s brought me the ugly truth about who I’ve been, and thankfully, who I need to be.

I haven’t wanted to sit with my thoughts because I ruminate. I overthink. And usually, it’s not about what I need to correct in myself but about what needs to be corrected in other people. And that has kept me stuck in a lie. Stuck in a life that puts the blame on everything and everyone around me. But now, that silence has brought me the truth. The viscerally painful yet much-needed truth.

I’m also learning, however, that not everything is my fault and I don’t need to take on other people’s pain. Other people still need to own their actions and past, do their own work, and it’s not my responsibility to do that for them. I can no longer be the scapegoat for bad behavior. I’ve compromised a lot of myself to be something other people think I should be. That’s a hard lesson to learn when you have been a people pleaser for so long. Empathy shouldn’t come at the cost of yourself.

I visit the rocks when I can. They are safe. They make me feel safe when sometimes I have a hard time trusting that I will feel that way somewhere else. I’m learning that to trust takes a lot of courage. On both sides. It’s a leap of faith that I’ve never been able to take. Maybe that’s changing. I don’t know to be honest. Yet, that’s what growth is about. It can be unknown, and it’s not always linear — it’s more of a messy, jolting, and sometimes backward movement. But growth is always movement. It just may be quite different than what you picture it will be.

So when I leave this place, a little piece of who I was is left there to blow away with the wind. That way, the next time I return, I’m a new person. Ever-changing. I’m leaving something there in exchange for something I haven’t become yet. What that is has yet to be determined, but I have a feeling those rocks know — that’s why they call out to me. They give me a little bit of peace and let me know that, eventually, everything will be okay. And even when it’s not, even when it seems like life has gotten the best of me, I know I can return to that place and feel free to be myself. Into the silence. Where truth remains, and where I can hear what needs to be heard. Whether I want to or not.

It’s hard to sit in silence. It’s hard to find out that maybe you aren’t who you thought you were. And it’s an exercise that takes patience and an understanding that you may not like what you find. But you have to be honest with yourself and your life.

I can’t change what’s happened. Neither can you. But we can change what’s happening. We can take responsibility for what’s been done but also for what’s being done. It’s a choice. Everything is a choice.

So maybe today, you find a place to sit in silence. Find some truth. Let it take a piece of you as those rocks do from me. Become a newer and better version of the person you were. And tomorrow, you start over.

“You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you’re okay.” — Cheryl Strayed

Jeff Barton is a writer, ultra-runner, lover of books and zombies, a practitioner of positive thinking, and most importantly, a dad. Living and loving life one day at a time. You can find him at jeffthewriter.com and jefftherunner.com.


Image courtesy of Iswanto Arif.