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I was recently visiting a friend in Berlin, Germany. Her training as an art historian and tour guide always makes for stimulating walks, no matter were we are. Berlin is a city where the wounds of WW II's atrocities have done some serious healing, but where the scars – if you know where to look – are still totally visible.

Not so long ago, this city was split down its middle, its families torn, its atmosphere laden with the poison of fear, lies, violence and isolation. 

Berlin, and of course the German people, have evolved into something new, but not by pretending, or forgetting. One cannot walk through the city without coming face to face with dozens of monuments, of all shapes and sizes – encouraging people to remember, to learn from our past. 

As we walked through the Pariser Platz, my friend suddenly brought my attention to a small, inviting structure with a big, wet poster outside: RAUM  DER  STILLE —  ROOM  OF  SILENCE.

We were greeted by a smiling, elderly volunteer in a small lobby containing brochures and a guest book. Then we entered the inner sanctuary with its low lighting, some benches, cushions, and most of all, a great, big quiet.

© Isabel Cooney

I was filled with gratitude for the people who had created this space. We need places like this all over. In every city, neighborhood, and home. Whether it's a mosque, a chapel, a meditation center, a field, a bench in front of a pond, or a corner in your home with a candle and a cushion, it is essential to make the space, and take the time, for silence and stillness.

When we make a point of seeking out quiet, what is it we are doing?

Well, one thing we're not doing is …. doing. This is not about accomplishing, getting results, or fighting. These all have their value, don't get me wrong – but life is more than action. There is a yin to every yang, a flip-side to everything we know.

SILENCE. A gift we can give ourselves. Almost anywhere, almost anytime. It's completely free. It's much easier than we think. Can you find 5 minutes today to practice being in that place of stillness?

© Isabel Cooney


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