In today’s frenetic world, finding a place to sit in silence can feel like finding that proverbial needle in a haystack. But the reality is, despite the lure of devices and endless updates, you can learn to carve out sessions of silence. Silence has an innate ability to slow down your thoughts and calm your nervous system. It can bring clarity and a deep sense of appreciation for life. Establishing silent time can also increase your creativity and give you a sharper attention span. Stillness is how energy connects to energy.
If practicing silence does all of these magnificent things, why then does it seem such a challenge? Let’s face it, the world has become a very noisy place, televisions, phones, cars, buses, airplanes. Often we block out this cacophony by popping ear buds in or turning up the radio battling sound with sound. Try simply turning off the phone, computer, or television for a period of time. Relish in a walk without listening to music. This allows you to see, hear, and smell the world around you, the wind rustling through the trees, the sway of branches, the smell of fresh rain. Silence brings a heightened awareness to your senses.
Learning to sit in stillness gives you the opportunity to be truly present. The physical postures of yoga were created to prepare the practitioner for the travel inward. Inward to that place where the true self resides uninfluenced by age, illness, or titles (father, sister, carpenter, doctor, etc.). Taking some time to slow down the breath, helps us slow down the thoughts that try to veer us out of silence; thoughts that whisper those endless “to do” lists. Giving yourself permission to be silent, allows you time to reconnect, and to reflect within your stillness.
Silence also recharges our bodies, it is like giving your car a tune up. By embracing silence, your mind, which ultimately effects the body, has a chance to mend. Imagine if you never gave your body a rest? Eventually it would break down. The same is true for the mind. Silence says to the brain, “take five.” It rejuvenates and restores balance. Silence gives you time to collect your thoughts to sort through what you can let go of.
Practicing the art of silence amid chaos is possible. Our thoughts have the ability to drown out attentions, noise, or whatever is going on around us. Think about when you are engaged in a stimulating conversation your attention is typically diverted from other stimuli—even if it’s a loud construction sight. Or when you are deep in thought and get lost because you weren’t paying attention. Our thoughts are powerful; silence can help shape them in a positive way by bringing awareness to their content. Cultivating a practice of silence is like taking time to visit an old friend; you are able to catch up with yourself, to notice and connect to stillness.
Regular moments of silence develop concentration. Try turning off your phone the next time you are with someone you love. Sit under a tree or in nature and take it all in without playing music (not that music is a bad thing it too can bring peace and healing). Nature has a profound wisdom that in the silence speaks to us.
Silence teaches us to be better listeners. Everyone wants to feel heard, by learning to allow silence to be apart of a conversation; you learn to listen to not only what is said but what is not said as well. Silence gives us power through clarity. When we become silent we can build on our inner strength. Think about those times when your words may have muddled up a situation or inadvertently been misunderstood. Silence often stands the test of time where the truth can quietly step into the light.
The following are a few other techniques to help you develop your own personal practice of silence:
• Practice being comfortable with silence in conversation. Try to not fill silent moments (which many of us have learned to dread). This helps you build a tolerance for silence.
• Create a time for your silence by making it a ritual. Perhaps you spend the mornings in silence or the evening after the kids are in bed. (Children can practice silence as well and they reap the same benefits as adults). Or maybe late afternoon after work and before you hit the traffic heading home.
• Savor your silent practice by protecting it. Make it just as important as brushing your teeth even if for only a few minutes.
• Find your spot and make it your own: under a favorite tree, at a park, in a room at work. Turn off the lights, light a candle.
• Turn off your devices, step away from the computer and the deluge of stimuli.
• If it helps, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Inhaling and exhaling slowly to the count of four for a few repetitions.
Practicing the art of silence will leave you refreshed and more at peace with yourself and the world around you. Enjoy the still, silent space that lives in all of us.