Life is ludicrously noisy. If it isn't the television blurring, it is the kids nattering, the phone ringing or the neighbours lawnmower chugging. We are surrounded by noise. Non-stop relentless clatter infiltrating our minds and leaving us without a peaceful place to retreat to. Is it any wonder we all feel a little bonkers from time to time? And so because wearing earplugs twenty four seven is deeply unsociable, we must, for our own sanity, create for ourselves a silent sanctuary: a place where we can slope off to to sit down for a while to re-group, gather our spirits and enjoy the creative spark our Muse will only light when we offer her the kind of hush she needs to think out loud.
While this is essentially about establishing a physical space in which to become still, we must also learn how to employ techniques that offer us sanctuary in our own heads. While not all of us are capable of meditation in the traditional sense, we can carve out a space at home filled with the kind of comforts and objects that remind us to slow down and seek serenity and we can allow that same space to encourage serenity by making our appearance at our quiet place a daily ritual we will come to rely upon.
Begin by seeking out a place where you will be far away from the rest of the house if not in distance then at least in spirit. Choose a chair in the garden, a cushion on your bedroom floor, a sofa in the conservatory: in fact anywhere where you will feel comfortable enough to sit for up to twenty minutes without developing the kind of twitchy legs that will have you bouncing back into the maelstrom or worse, falling into to a mid-afternoon slump!
Sit for a while there. See how it feels. Do you need another cushion in the small of your back? Is there a blanket or pashmina to hand that you can wrap around you because it is important to always feel comfortably warm or else you will wiggle about and disturb your own peace. What can you hear? Can you shut the door, close the windows or wander deeper into the garden?
Are you comfortable? Good. Now lets think about when you will come to your special place. When we are establishing a quiet practise like this, it will become habit if we ritually attend this appointment with our quiet selves at roughly the same time daily. It matters less when we go, than it does to go again at a similar time the day after and the day after that and on and on. We need to make quiet time precious to ourselves so that those who live with us will come to respect it too.
So we have a time and a place and now we need to settle in: to decorate our little quiet space with all that we need to bring about hush. If it isn't possible to have your quiet place permanently set up for serenity then it might be as well to create a quiet time basket you can bring with you.
In my own quiet time practise I sit upon a large peach cushion I used to hold my baby on when I was breastfeeding. I light a tiny tea-light and there is a grey blanket across my legs as I sit upright with my back against my bedroom wall. After experimenting for months to find a scent I want to fragrance my quiet time I have settled upon Neals Yard Tibetan incense which I burn in a delicately patterned tea-cup, because it has a long time association with meditation and doesn't make me feel drowsy. In my hand I hold a piece of rose quartz crystal I store wrapped in a lacy vintage hanky, leaning against the open door of my wardrobe is a small fabric covered pinboard to which I have attached a number of short quotes that inspire my way of life, on my iPad I have downloaded a large collection of short meditations and meditative music to play quietly when I cannot tune into my own serenity alone, and in front of me I place a teeny, tiny brass Irish Lady bell I use to ring my silence in and break it again when I am ready to return to life.
Though I practise Transcendental Meditation now (and can thoroughly recommend it), my quiet time "kit" was in existence long before I took the time to formalise my meditative practise with a specific technique and even if you would prefer to enjoy quiet time with your eyes open and a piece of cross stitch in your hand, all the items I have mentioned, a cushion, blankets, scent, mantras and music can help your mind to tranquilise and over time show you the way to serenity as an almost automatic process.
While it may at first seem forced, taking a moment to enhance your quiet time with a few objects with meaning will make the ritual a more inviting one. These items do not have to be the clichéd kit of the ageing hippie either, but can absolutely reflect your own vintage aesthetic as mine do, with the emphasis being on the pretty: the soft pink of the rose crystal that almost seems to hum in my hand, the pretty flowers around the edge of my teacup, and the lacy hankie I occasionally use to mop up the tears that sometimes fall during the deepest of a beginners meditation practise all reflect the decoration of the rest of my home and pack up neatly into a fabric lined basket when I'm finished, that I store in my wardrobe and unpack as I need to.
The ritualisation of your own quiet time can therefore be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Should you be lucky enough to have a spare room then let it do double duty as your very own serene space and be as selfish as you need to be in indulging this space with all that you need to find peace and quiet. Add photographs, create an altar, light as many candles as you want, have a book that means the world to you at your side or a quilt and pillow to crawl into when quiet time is over and everything inside you is crying out for a nap.
This is your place. Make it beautiful and throbbing with emotion. Keep it deliciously simple or as decorative as your heart requires for our own sense of serenity is enhanced when the eye finds beauty and order according to our own personal aesthetic and a mind soothed by an eye pleased is one that will settle long enough to engage all the senses and enjoy the kind of silence only deep peace can bring.
This then is your task for this week: to create a quiet place all of your own and in amongst the laundry and the cooking and the childcare and the loving, to find time to simply sit and stare at the flicker of a candle or close your eyes and allow your mind to settle somewhere quiet all of your own.
Peace my Darling is your absolute right.