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We are often afraid of silence, because its emptiness feels idle, boring, unproductive, and scary. And so we fill our lives with chaos, noise, clutter. But silence can be lovely, and therapeutic, and powerful. It can be the remedy for our stress and the habits that crush us.

English: Summer Down, Imber Range Living up to...

I paused and read again the lines above in a recent blog by Leo Babauta. Silence can feel idle, unproductive, boring. I love music, talking, laughing, movies. And silence usually requires stillness. Please don’t make me sit still. I have a list, a routine, obligations.

And yet, as my husband and I work to downsize our belongings, I need to stay focused on, as Leo says, subtracting. An executive coach recently told me that most of us (especially women) try to be all things to all people all the time. “I think life has stages,” she said. “For certain periods of time it isn’t feasible nor healthy to be involved in lots of community activities, for example. And during other stages you have time and space to volunteer more.” It reminded me of a saying I once heard and often repeat. “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at one time.” And the trick to discovering that balance? Silence.