After spending 10 months immersed in a Quaker community in Monteverde, Costa Rica, English Professor Joseph Heithaus brought back with him an interesting little thing known as “quiet hour,” where the idea is to essentially sit in collective silence. It sounds simple, but you would be surprised all it does for you.
As a rather loud individual with the attention span comparable to that of a goldfish, it may seem questionable as to why I would actively choose to remain silent with others. However, from this activity, I learned all that goes unnoticed when I’m running my mouth.
I sat in the beautiful Bartlett Center meditation room that has an earthy feel and exudes a sense of being nestled within the surrounding ginkgo trees. I was in a circle with just four individuals, whose breathing soothed me. No, this was not the heavy, sitting-next-to-me-in-class breathing that always manages to irritate me–it was a subtle reassurance of others’ presence.
Some chose to sit in meditative poses with closed eyes, but I for one enjoyed simply gazing out the window in a relaxed position. As an avid toe-tapper with a body that simply refuses to sit still, I did not even attempt to do so. To an outside observer, I probably seemed on the verge of death given my incessant gaze and sudden movements, but I was at peace. I pleasantly watched the leaves twist and turn with the wind, which caused the protruding sunlight to flicker and glimmer. The shadows this created shimmied across the window panes in a way that kept me content for the half-hour.
Occasionally I would catch the eyes of another, or recognize the movement from somebody’s readjusting. Surprisingly, this was not at all awkward. When recognizing that we’re all coming into this space to sit in quiet, the general attitude is accepting. At one point I even heard a giggle, and I simply occupied myself by fantasizing what could possibly make someone laugh in this circumstance (I came to the conclusion that reminiscing about an old Vine would make me do so).
Having participated in various forms of meditation–yes, I’ve hit rock bottom many a time–I stand by this mode of silence. While meditation revolves around clearing the mind and structured breathing patterns, this is just silence. No rules, no complications. I quite like it, as I was able to entertain myself as I saw fit, but I could’ve very well done absolutely nothing, too; it’s completely up to the participant. My point is, you certainly don’t have to be the zen, whole-grain granola-eating type to enjoy this. My take on quiet hour was letting my thought-ridden mind run wild.
As an involved individual on campus, I hardly find the time to sleep, let alone sit in a circle in complete quiet just because. Nonetheless, this was an anxiety-relieving experience. This is a type of self-care outside of the realm of face masks and junk food. Setting aside the time to do literally nothing could actually not be more freeing. I will consider this a “treat yo’ self” moment for this reason. I came out with a lowered heart rate and an overall feeling of relief. Quiet hour brought me calmness.
Too often we get caught up in the to-dos of the day, and this is the purest form of putting those things on hold–if you choose to leave those thoughts at the door, along with your shoes–in the aim of doing nothing but keeping silent. This is precisely why Professor Heithaus brought the activity to DePauw. He recognizes the culture among DePauw students to overwork themselves and sees quiet hour as a relief from daily requirements. The process was strange yet relaxing, and I will definitely choose to go sit in silence again–every second and fourth Thursday of the month, in case you were wondering.