Silence is no longer golden.
In today’s world, “white noise” suffuses our office buildings; music, news and sports broadcast in public places morning to night; leaf blowers scream; cell phones track us down with their insistent rings. Our homes offer no refuge either: On go the TVs and stereos as soon as we walk into the house; the computer hums an incessant, tuneless number; we talk constantly.
We seem to rush to fill up the silence, to cover it with some sound or another.
And yet, only in silence can we hear the voice of our heart.
“Silence allows us to open the door to our unconscious mind, feel the yearnings of our heart, follow the wisdom of our intuition, probe the origin of our aversions and understand the truth of our experience,” says Richard Mahler, author of Stillness: Daily Gifts of Solitude, Simplicity and Silence. “We at last get in touch with our deepest secrets, strongest passions, fondest wishes and happiest memories.”
Mahler refers not to the silence of the oppressed or fearful, the silence that hinders honest relating or the silence that utters not a word against great injustice. The silence that is truly golden is that which takes us off our express trains and guides us inward to a timeless well of strength and replenishment, like an abundant river whose source lies hidden in some nook among the hills. It becomes a balm for our hurried, feverish pace, a sacred rest, a truce of worries.
Without this holy stop, it is hard for anything worthwhile to catch up with us. Or, put another way, when we speak, we hear only what we already know. When we listen, we stand a chance of learning something.
American historian James Truslow Adams wrote, “Perhaps it would be a good idea, fantastic as it sounds, to muffle every telephone, halt every motor, stop all activity some day to give people a chance to ponder for a few moments on what life is all about, why they are living and what they really want.”
How can we reclaim our lost silence, our missing wilderness?
We can start by acknowledging that time spent in silence is not wasted time. Actually, silence can “pay for itself” by strengthening our inner connection, which expands not only our sense of well-being but also our sense of time.
It’s also helpful to realize that embracing silence does not necessarily mean carving large blocks of time from our busy days. Simply turning off our radios and televisions more often, or choosing when to answer the phone, can make a surprisingly big difference.
A regular practice of meditation, even for only five minutes a day, is often the most recommended silent practice—and it is powerful. But we can incorporate silence into our everyday active lives, as well. Here are a few suggestions for practicing active silence:
Immersed as we are in constant sound and stimuli, the practice of silence is refreshing and needed more than ever before.
“Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights.”