I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to have a clear mind – to not feel burdened by constant thoughts running through my head. I’ve recently started an exercise that has done for me just that. I suddenly find myself in moments without anything to say. Sometimes without anything to think! I have to admit it has been somewhat uncomfortable. I have no idea how to navigate this territory. I’m so used to always having something geared up and ready to bring to the table. Now I’m sitting here quiet and solemn, feeling uncomfortable in the silence.

So what do we do when we have nothing to say? How are we supposed to feel when we aren’t reacting to something we hear or see?

I recently listened to a podcast about being a good listener. The guest explained that when we are actively listening, we free ourselves from the need to speak, and we open our hearts to empathy. I have never thought of myself as an empath. I’m happy to lend a short ear and advise, but I often find it difficult to be completely present to the feelings of others. I’ve never been brave enough for that.

My mind and all its thoughts have acted as a shield for me. If I remain lost in my own thoughts, I can feel protected from others. I’ve on occasion said that there isn’t room for more feelings. I’ve joked that I’m stone-cold and nothing can move me too deeply. I acted like this is was a badge of honor. I was stronger than emotions! Yet, lately, as my mind has become clearer, I’ve felt myself being more present to others, to their feelings – to my own feelings, and my heart is growing more capable of holding space, without it feeling like more than I can handle.

A couple of years ago I wrote about being lost in my mind. But lost is the wrong word to use. I’ve realized that a place of chaos and turning thoughts is where I go for comfort. It may not be comfortable. But it is familiar. Even the anxiety it brings is a place I know I can go for that dysfunctional solace I know so well. I can work with myself there. It’s not always easy, but it’s usual and customary.

So where do I turn now for that place of familiarity? My art and writing have been of great comfort to me. By getting my thoughts out in my writing, it’s becoming easier for me to decipher their origin. And when uncomfortable feelings arise, I know I have that safe space for expression, a place without judgment or expectations. It’s allowed me to be present and not fear the feelings of others. And when others are speaking, I’m learning to listen. To feel instead of think. And allow them to move more freely through the space I’ve chosen to hold for them.

It’s all still a work in progress, for sure. But I sense myself slowly becoming more present and aware. And I’m learning the art of expression without words. As a writer that’s a strange place to be. But I’m hopeful more meaningful work will come from it, as well as more meaningful relationships with others and the world around me. I could be wrong. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.