Being quiet in the heart of Chaos
I was at a wedding recently and they did one of the most delightful things I have ever seen at it. They passed around a basket with rolled up pieces of paper, each one with a quotation on it.
The one I got was; “. . . there is luxury in being quiet in the heart of chaos.” ~Virginia Woolf,
It’s from Virginia’s diary of Thursday 23 June 1927. She lived in London and was part of The Bloomsbury Set, a well known group of intellectuals, artists, writers etc who were also known for their high life style, which I take to be what she is referring to as “the heart of chaos”.
I was struck by the word “luxury”. Usually we associate it with the idea of something indulgent rather than a necessity, and I wondered if this is what Virginia meant.
From my gleanings in the dictionary, apparently the word, luxurious, did not arise until the 1930’s, so Virginia would have been using it in the older sense of “enjoyable or comfortable beyond life’s necessities” as opposed to sumptious or extravagant.
The dictionary also gives us the following two definitions:
Free or habitual indulgence in or enjoyment of comforts and pleasures in addition to those necessary for a reasonable standard of wellbeing.
A pleasure out of the ordinary allowed to oneself.
So, Virginia had discovered the pleasure of being quiet in the midst of her hectic lifestyle but she took it as a luxury whereas I’d say it is a necessity.
This diary shall batten on the leanness of my social life. Never have I spent so quiet a London summer.
It is perfectly easy to slip out of the crush unobserved. I have set up my standard as an invalid, & no one bothers me. No one asks me to do anything. Vainly, I have the feeling that this is of my choice, not theirs; & there a luxury in being quiet in the heart of chaos.
Directly I talk & exert my wits in talk I get a dull damp rather headachy day. Quiet brings me cool clear quick mornings, in which I dispose of a good deal of work, & toss my brain into the air when I take a walk. I shall feel some triumph if I skirt a headache this summer.
Quiet time is a necessity for anyone not only seeking peace in their lives but especially for anyone who is serious about their spiritual unfolding. It’s in the quiet times that we gather energy and allow for clarity in our minds.
Talking, socialising drains our energy. We dissipate our energy, often without being aware of how it affects us. On the spiritual path we need to conserve our energy for the path. This means that if we spend our energy on other activities we have none left for the inner work. Inner work unfolds in quiteness. As long as we spend our time relating to others it is difficult to relate seriously and intensely with ourselves, and this is what is required for spiritual work. In order to “Know Thyself” know ourselves deeply, we need to spend time with ourselves. Self knowing is like any other relationship in that the more time you spend with yourself and the more attention you pay to yourself the more will be revealed to you. By attention I mean observing what goes on in your head, all those thoughts that constantly fly by and we hardly notice them.
Virginia used her quiet “to dispose of work”, her work of writing. This was her goal and she gave it the attention and time she needed for it. What is your goal? Do you give it the time and attention it needs? Do you carve out quiet time for your goal in the midst of the chaos of daily life?
As she said, “it is perfectly easy to slip out of the crush unobserved”.
Nobody knows what you are thinking or feeling unless you tell them. You can conserve the energy you use in telling to observe what is going on inside yourself, right in the midst of your daily life.
I think everyone can carve out time for themselves if they really want to. It’s a question of knowing what your goal is and then making space for it in your life. It’s a question of how committed you are to your own inner knowledge of who you are.
For the serious spiritual seeker creating quiet in the midst of chaos is not a luxury but a necessity.
Virginia created quiet time for herself by setting up her standard as invalid. But you don’t have to do anything as drastic as this. You can find your inner quietness while walking the dog, washing the dishes, turning off the television or internet, finding time to sit alone anywhere, and so on. It’s really a question of keeping in mind what your goal is and carving time out of your daily responsibilities for it.
The feature image is from: http://www.autostraddle.com/tag/virginia-woolf/
I don’t know who did the painting.