Hello, my old friend

Silence opens up space for our spirit to come through

Harvesting silence

Silence may be golden but as a commodity, it’s hard to come by. Just look around at all the tools we use to fill our heads and physical spaces with sound: iPods, television, YouTube, not to mention simple conversation. You can even buy sound machines to create artificial ambient sound. It’s no wonder we’ve become uncomfortable with the sweet sound of silence—we’re not used to it.

Silence allows us to connect with the universe on many levels. Clearing away noise clutter lets us hear the voice of our spirit that is always gently guiding us toward a better life. It’s hard to hear that voice with the constant sound of conversation, music or even your own thoughts.

Yes, thoughts count as noise pollution. Repetitive concentration on your problems—ruminating—is just as distracting as your neighbor’s radio blaring at full volume. I admit there are times I sit in complete silence only to be wrapped up fully in the sound of my own thoughts. Even without audible sound, thoughts can drown out the sound of my inner self, or nature, and deprive me of their benefits.

Silence creates space and that space is important for spiritual and psychological development. True silence roots you firmly in the present moment—that precious time where your spirit meets the physical world. Immersing yourself in the present moment allows your ego and intellect to take a back seat for a moment. In that moment, your inner self can come out and make itself known. Your inner self has access to the entire universe and when you give it space, it will reveal exactly what you need to know.

Reducing noise pollution also has health benefits. Spending time in silence can reduce blood pressure and calm your nerves. That is once you get over the initial shock of being quiet for more than five minutes! Some daily (or at least weekly) time in quiet solitude can help your body fully relax which helps lower stress levels.

How much time should you allow yourself to be quiet?

This is a personal choice and is primarily based on how comfortable you are with silence. For many people, silence is uncomfortable. And for some, it’s unbearable. The more uncomfortable you are with silence, the more you may need to set aside daily time to “be” in silence. Once you become accustomed to it, you may find that you like the space that silence gives you and add more of it to each day.

Many people find that quiet periods at the beginning or the end of the day are just what the doctor ordered. Starting the day with quiet time allows your body to ease into the day. You may find that morning quiet time helps you remember your dreams more vividly. Alternatively, quiet time before bed helps quiet the mind and the body and can help you fall asleep more easily.

Do you need to do meditate?

Meditation creates the same emotional/psychic space that helps you connect to your inner self. Having said that, it isn’t imperative that you meditate when trying to enjoy silence. Finding silent periods (or creating them) during your day helps you connect with yourself, your environment and with others. For some, learning to be silent with other people is just as important as taking time to meditate. Silence allows you—and sometimes forces you—to be present with yourself and others. It can be uncomfortable until you’re used to it.

Practicing silence in different settings at different times can help you learn what feels best to you and your spirit. For me, one of the most powerful times I can be quiet is driving through the mountains. With no radio and no companionship, the silence allows me to be present with the road, focusing my attention on driving as well as creating some space for my inner self to solve problems or be creative.

Silent retreats

My first silent retreat wasn’t planned as such. A few weeks after my father died, I decided I needed some time alone to process my emotions. I drove to our family’s mountain property with the dog and had the intention of being alone, thinking, reading and meditating for a few days. I hadn’t really thought about noise nor the lack of it.

As the first day drew to an end and the sun went down, I suddenly realized I had never scheduled time to be alone for a few days. That first night was tough on me and the silence was the worst part. I could hear every sound imaginable. After a few hours, I could even hear the deafening sound of silence. The night was still and at times there was only the sound of my own breathing.

After two days I realized I wasn’t even talking to myself mentally as much as usual. I hadn’t ceased thought but rather entered into what I can only describe as “knowing” with my inner self. There was no need for thoughts or words. Even my communication with the dog turned into glances and feelings as we learned how to be quiet together. The retreat replenished my psychic energy and helped me feel better.

Since that experience, I purposely schedule silent retreats for myself. Sometimes it’s camping in the wilderness for a few days and sometimes it’s heading to my favorite Buddhist retreat center. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a retreat for everyone but if you really want to experience the power of enforced silence, I highly recommend it.

We’ve become over stimulated in our technology-driven society. Finding time each day or each week to enjoy the sound of “nothing” can really help you connect with your spirit and refresh your soul. It seems strange to purposely set aside time to be quiet but as our world becomes more and more connected, it remains an important tool in developing your self and honoring your spirit.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Judy
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 00:33:29

    For fleeting moments, I’ve had the same experience of focus on the road when driving in open mountain stretches. It makes me aware of how distracting the noise around us can be on a task at hand.


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