By Lindsay Christensen
In this day and age, silence is a dying concept.
Our ears are continually bombarded with auditory stimulation: the alarm clock, television, our iPods, traffic, and conversation, just to name a few.
We are literally hearing something every second of every day. Over time, we have become accustomed to this constant stream of noise; it has become a comforting drone in the background of our lives.
However, our adaptation to the existence of constant noise has precipitated a new problem: we are now afraid of silence.
Our fear of silence stems from conditioning. We have continually been told, through both plainspoken and subliminal means, that silence indicates austerity, loneliness, dreariness, or boredom; hence, we will do anything to avoid silence.
Have you ever noticed how people become nervous when things get quiet at the dinner table at a party? Or how some people leave the TV on in the background when nobody else is home with them? We practice behaviors such as these because we have come to believe that silence is bad; we believe that it indicates we have nobody to talk to and that, therefore, nobody cares about us. We think that silence connotes an absence of life and vitality.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Practicing periods of silence allows you to really become comfortable in your own mind and body, and can help keep you grounded in the present, among many other benefits. Incorporating periods of silence into our day-to-day existence can, in fact, enrich our lives tremendously!
Our beliefs about silence, and the fact that we are usually surrounded by noise, are road-blocks to the experience of blissful silence. Yet, by practicing short periods of silence every day, I think you will find that those beliefs begin to crumble and you will come to crave those moments of silence that you have squeezed into your day. You will begin to become comfortable just being with yourself, being present in the moment. You will start to appreciate the small things in life that you previously overlooked. The experience of silence can be simultaneously calming, grounding, and inspiring! If you are wondering, “How can I practice periods of silence?”, here are a few of my favorite ideas:
1. Meditate – give yourself thirty minutes every morning or evening (or both!) to sit quietly, clear your mind, and focus on your breathing. I like to sit in a chair with both feet planted firmly on the ground and my hands on my knees because this position makes me feel grounded, but there are many more posture options that you could try. The important thing is to focus on your breath, and to not worry when other thoughts start coming into your head! Let them come, then picture gently sweeping them aside with a broom, clearing them away.
2. Go Outside – Natural areas, such as parks and nature preserves, tend to be pretty quiet. Give yourself the luxury of going on a leisurely walk and listen to the silence of nature. You just might find that nature’s music is even better than your iPod!
3. Head to the Library – The public library is one of my favorite places. There is something about the thick, rich silence inside, along with the smell of old books, that makes me very happy! Since talking is prohibited in most areas of the library, I guarantee you will be able to find some silence. However, before picking up a book to read, take some time to meditate and appreciate the silence surrounding you.
Even if you are fully ready to try one of these ideas, you may still initially find that experiencing periods of silence after a lifetime of ceaseless noise can be quite disconcerting. But when your mind starts whining, saying “I’m lonely” or “This is boring,” don’t throw in the towel! Keep trying!
The first time I sat down with the intention of meditating, I could hardly handle the silence; it left too much room for all the thoughts buzzing around in my head. I started to hear the cars outside with irritating clarity, and when the air duct started clanking, I thought I would go crazy! Yet, after several more months of meditation practice, I have found that I am now much more comfortable with silence. Practicing periods of silence has helped me realize that I needn’t fear being alone with myself; I have become comfortable being with myself. The experience of silence has inspired me and humbled me. I believe that the practice of silence can help you develop into a stronger, wiser person.
Now, all you need to do is find just a little bit of room in your day to make time for silence. Choose a special place, practice for whatever duration of time you are most comfortable with, and most importantly, don’t give up! Over time, I know that the experience of silence will begin to work its magic on you as well.