All monastic life centers around silence and solitude. These twin blessings are also the essence of a writer’s life. Writers need silence and solitude in huge chunks. However, in an increasingly noisy world dominated by cell phones, mp3s, tablets and social media, we are barraged by constant stimulation.
The renowned psychologist Wayne Edward Oates developed a technique called turning aside, which helps one find silence within even in the midst of turbulence. Turning aside means removing your focus from the chaos around you and shifting your focus upon a small object. Giving the small object your hundred percent attention trains the mind to shut off all the noise and chaos around you, and in time all that will matter to you will be the object of your focus. It is as though the noisy world simply recedes into the background.
This exercise can be done anywhere and at anytime. It’s a great exercise for writers. I’ve practiced turning aside for many years. My brother taught me how to shut off the noise around me and fully focus on my intention or what I am doing. Turning aside aka shutting off has helped me find the silence within so that even if I am in the midst of a noisy crowd, I can enter into the silent chambers of my being and write.