“We have created a sort of society of distraction that takes us ever further outside ourselves. Everything seems designed to distance us from our true selves. Because if we ever stop for a moment and sit in silence, we will inevitably have to confront our feelings of emptiness … with no real idea of what to do.” — “The Gift of Silence: Finding peace in a world full of noise” by Kankyo Tannier
I feel awkward writing this post.
Should I really have to comment on something as obvious as silence?
Yes. (…and I say that very deliberately.)
My point, in a nutshell: all of us need more silence.
Let me say that again.
We need to embrace silence.
But we won’t.
Because we’ve been conditioned to believe that noise, disruption, doing and a whole other slew of achievement-related objects are the order of the day.
Before I completely shoot myself in the foot, I accept that silence might be considered another ‘must have’ option, but then again, the type of wide-open, silent space I’m thinking of doesn’t require anything other than us to be fully present to this moment.
If you are able to sit for 30 seconds, with your eyes shut without any objective, what do you hear? Yes, there’s some background noise but in no time at all your inner voice will clamour to be heard.
“I need to get on; this is boring.”
Then again, imagine a practice of sitting (or walking meditation) where after a while that inner voice grows quiet and you begin to feel your way fully into the moment.
…and before you ask, this isn’t about getting anything — bliss or the like — this is simply about being awake all body, mind and spirit.
Let me back up a bit.
When I was a kid, we lived a simple life. Less money, fewer things and less doing. Sure, we might have wanted things different — “I’m bored” — but then again some of my strongest memories about being connected to myself and others (particularly my grandparents) was in that space between the doing and the pause. You know, when I stopped trying to get anywhere and just allowed the moment to unfold.
Race forward to the current day.
I’m not sure I’ve got that much more disposable income — my wife and I are and have been raising three children — but certainly, there’s this overwhelming sense to get on. If I’m not doing, then something’s wrong.
Actually, of late (the last year or so), I’ve been slowing down. Better still, I’ve taken time to sit with my thinking self and do nothing. No reason. But my intention has been to walk more of my talk. This has meant (for a start) I’ve spent less time online, more time walking my dogs and being connected to silence. And I’ve felt alive, properly so.
I know that it’s just the beginning. As the slogan on this blog makes clear, my sine qua non is to awaken, to true self. That means to come alive in the moment to everything you are, not in an egoic sense but to live the unlived life; to answer your call if you will.
In case it’s not already obvious, writing down a series of goals, effecting another exacting regime designed to change you and buying into another personal development programme will never work. They might for a while but the effect will soon wear off. Instead, what you need do is turn your intention to manifesting your highest purpose.
If my life is anything to go by what’s missing in that journey is silence or at least the space that silence offers.
Does this mean you need to head off on retreat? Yes, if that’s what will give you the time and freedom to explore what’s holding you back. But truth is, if you explore the subject on your own terms, you’ll quickly discover that silence is everywhere.
A few things I’d recommend:
Have a day without your mobile phone and tell people that you’ll be offline. When the feeling arises that you need to do something, quietly say to yourself, “stay”, as if you were giving a small puppy dog a command as part of its training. Go for a walk in nature, a park or somewhere you know you can listen to your heart, your breath and your thoughts. You’re not trying to do anything or get anywhere but simply to find the silence between the spaces of the aforementioned. Sit still. Close your eyes. Have no goal or aim. And do this for a few minutes. This isn’t so much a practice — it might turn into one — but just to reclaim the sensation of non-doing. And finally, don’t be afraid to stop talking even in and among a group of people. You’ll be amazed at how much more you hear if shut up and listen.
I’m sure I’ll return to this topic if only to report on my own journey but for now consider what silence might offer you in your life.