I am indebted to my friend, Rashmir Balasubramaniam from the UK, for inspiring this blog. Her question on Twitter recently was: “I’m continuing to reflect on silence this week, and wondering what is your relationship to silence? And is there a way to bring and maintain more silence and spaciousness into social media?” Here was my immediate response without much thought or time to consider further: “A wonder-filled question from you, thank you. My relationship with Silence is deep, continuous and an essential part of my life and work. I need to write a piece on the value of silence and listening, not only for the “still small voice” but to our hearts and our breathing.” So, my friends, here is that piece, limited and brief for now. There is much more that could be said, and done, regarding silence and its restorative power.
For centuries, the mystics and monastics have been and continue to be living testimonials to a life of contemplation. In Book X, Aristotle ultimately concludes that contemplation is the highest human activity. … “The activity of wisdom is contemplation, so contemplation must be the highest activity of human life.” Spiritual leaders in most religious traditions practice some form of silent meditation and even those without a visible connection to a world religion, including indigenous people, hold up the values of silence. I just returned from working with an international boarding school in India where the practice of meditation and quiet time is an integral part of their values and daily schedules. Students and adults in the community are part of a larger world-wide community who practice spiritual development as a balance with the temporal world.
The immediate blessing of silence, besides an escape from the noise of the external world, is a connection to our own deeply personal connection to who we are as human beings, listening in those moments of silence to our heartbeat and breathing. Life source, life force. An extended blessing of silence is health and well-being, shifting activity in the brain and body that can be seen and felt, and by others, as well as ourselves, who use instruments to measure the changes or who can see the differences in physical, emotional and social presence.
There have been hundreds of books written on silence, numerous articles, and published research. I do not pretend to be an expert practitioner of silence although it is an essential part of my life and work as I indicated to Rashmir. One book I recommend for those interested in learning more is the 2016 work by Thich Nhat Hanh:
For a peek into a bit of research on the value of silence for good health, here are a couple of studies and there are many more: https://upliftconnect.com/science-says-silence-is-vital-for-our-brains/
What I do as one who practices silence, on a somewhat regular basis, can be summed up by the following. I meditate daily in several different forms and times. First upon waking, some time is devoted to silence and paying attention to breathing and listening. In daily walks, on many occasions, immersed in natural surroundings, entertaining and enjoying feelings and thoughts of gratitude for being able to enjoy this time and gifts of creation. In regular, periodic, several day retreats, either solo or with support from a spiritual director or small group, I practice being in silence. And finally, at the end of every day, I set aside some time for reflection, contemplation and letting go. I sometimes take a road trip in silence and often work quietly without any distraction or music or external noise. This is what works for me. I trust you will continue to explore and discover what works for you. The benefits and blessings of silence are enormously rewarding.