I look up at my bedroom ceiling and mutter something very-not-kid-friendly to the obviously kid-made sounds thumping, jumping, and running above me.
This isn’t the first time I’ve lived under noisy neighbors or with a partner who has different auditory thresholds. So I’ve become all to aware of the sounds that plague my morning and evenings; the pitter patter of feet, loud pets, even louder televisions from inside my own home, stray walkie-talkie- app voice messages, not to mention the ever constant notifications from my phone.
I had become one of those people.
Someone who craves silence.
As an avid concert live lover and a loud listener of music in my car, I never thought I’d see this day. I’ve mentioned before about the busyness of the chatter within the world however I often forget…
Silence is platinum
For me silence is more than golden, it’s platinum. I need silence in my life everyday. This is a form of self-care that when skipped, I, and only I, pay the internal price for. Silence provides the required space needed for self-reflection. This reflection is important to our self awareness and overall self growth.
The primary result in self reflection is to find the purpose behind ourselves and the things around us. Without purpose, or understanding of who we are and what things around us mean, we can feel lost, confused, hopeless, and worse.
Silence is the think tank of the soul.–Gustavo Razzetti
Silence is one of the most underrated “sounds” in our noise obsessed society. The value of silence will vary from individual but there’s no arguing it’s a currency we all have stock in. Excess noise has been shown to be BAD for you — it’s been linked to health conditions like insomnia, heart disease, stress, compromised immune systems, and more. Most of those are a reaction to the day-to-day noise and a signal that you are craving sweet silence.
Silence is not just lack of noise
Enter the silent retreat.
Have you been reading about new retreats where people pay to sit in silence? It’s true, this is how badly humans need time to be present.
The retreats provide an empty space for your mind to recover clarity. And to protect it from mental noise. While on these retreats, attendees are silent for extreme extended periods of time, usually longer than they have ever been quiet before. When the retreat starts, there’s an agreement that talking will be severely limited to only essential speech such as questions, meditation sounds, or bodily functions such as sneezing (although I’ve heard yawning is discouraged). Not only are attendees quiet, they do not hear anyone else speak as well.
What results is a nourishing environment for silent stillness.
This year, I was planning on going to a 7-day silent retreat in Bali as a way to really hunker down and overcome the challenge I seem to have with noise. Although I am often annoyed by the many noises of my day, I am never without headphones, music, or white noise going. I wanted to show myself first-hand that silence does not have to equal isolation, discomfort, loneliness, or missing out on something.
In Susan Cain’s 2012 book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she expresses how being quiet has an overall powerful effect in helping you show more power and control in a work setting.
Even though our conscious minds may have gotten used to the noise, our bodies are more stubborn to recover. As studies have shown, day-to-day noise pollution can actually trigger our flight-or-fight receptors.
On the other hand, with just two minutes of practiced silence per day, we can relax the body easily. When we push that two minutes to two hours of silence, we actually can start to generate new shiny brain cells. These same cells have been linked to learning, remembering, and our emotions.
The lack of stimulation and distraction during silence puts the brain into abstraction mode. Noiseless times are meant to re-calibrate the mind efficiently in small doses with the intent that it will build a positive domino effect over the course of time.
Being quiet feels weird doesn’t it? You’re probably not use to the heightened closeness with the world around you. Social situations, music, television, ambient neighbor noise, and sounds in between keep our minds in an active (and exhausting) state. A 24/7 culture that thrives on being “on” forgets how restorative silence can be.
When we take a pause, our other senses take a step forward to assess the inner and outer world with greater clarity.
Try this 5-minute, intentionally silent exercise:
- Schedule time to be silent. Put this in your Google calendar, write it down, put a sticky note on your laptop, whatever you do, stick to the time. This is exercise will require an active, short burst of discipline from you. This is it.
- Turn off your television, Spotify playlist, fan, and phone. We’re eliminating sensory trigger sounds that we are familiar with. Don’t have a panic attack, just set it in airplane mode or turn off all sounds aside from a 5-minute alarm if you choose to use one. I forgo this as I don’t like being interrupted by this time. And if I go over, it’s a plus in my book.
- Get comfortable somewhere. My favorite spot is my couch with my favorite candle flickering. Just let yourself be. Thoughts are going to come in your mind, but just notice them and don’t dwell.
- Focus on what you do notice. Is there a bird singing outside your window? Perhaps a certain smell wafting through the air brings up a memory? Or maybe you can finally feel your body release the tension you’ve been holding in certain spots. Focus on what normally evades you in the background.
- Actively relay how you feel internally without saying a word to yourself. What does calm, relaxed, or peaceful feel like? What feelings arise when the silence takes over? Embrace whatever overcomes you in this 5-minutes.
What did you notice? Without thinking the internet, music, a conversation, or various external interruptions what was observed? For me silence works to cultivate mindfulness, focus, and concentration. It allows the mental momentum I’m often caught in a time to fade away.
The more exploration each of us gives to silence in our daily lives, the more comfortable we will become with the expansiveness that is silent tranquility in relationships with others but more importantly, ourselves. Silence could support you in discovering an internal freedom readily available, at any time, in any place.
We all deserve a little peace and quiet…