Silence is Medicine for the Soul

alg2532In this mad world filled with video, TV, cell phone mania, and music of all kinds at all times and in all places, how much do you desire and value silence?

Do you yearn for silence or view it as an uncomfortable experience?

Do you make time for silence or do you avoid it?

I choose to start my days in silence with nothing on my agenda other than just being and meditating. I rise early and sit bundled up on deck chair with my cup of cocoa between my hands. As I inhale the aroma my mouth watering in anticipation of the moment the first creamy swallow will glide over my tongue, I sigh a single audible sigh, and then begin to seek the silence.

Sitting alone in a quiet place can be a difficult experience. Without distractions, we can feel bombarded by unpleasant thoughts and emotions. All the ways we’re unhappy about ourselves and our lives come raging back into our awareness when there’s space for them to come up.– How Getting Used To Silence Can Help Your Productivity by Christopher R. Edgar on Productivity

Observing silence outwardly but allowing my mind to be noisy wouldn’t do so when I finish I rise from my chair, sit my cup on the table and position myself cross-legged on the cushion I place there for this purpose. Then I begin by simply following my breath in and out. Not striving to change it in anyway simply observing it. With eyes half closed I witness my monkey mind cavorting from topic to topic and yammering, yammering, yammering about the things I must accomplish today. I pay this no mind but neither do I push it away. I continue to follow my breath – Buddhist Meditation: Mindful Breathing Practice. In time my monkey mind will quietly come to rest as I make the shift into consciousness — into the meditative state.

Some time later I make the shift back into everyday awareness filled  with the knowledge that all of us, all over the world, are living breathing cells in the body of humanity nurtured by the silence, a spacious place for growth.

Throughout the ages sages have emphasized the value of silence saying that talking expends energy and time, while silence insures we use our resources judiciously. An early defender of Quakerism, Robert Barclay, emphasized on how much more powerful silence is than any argument used to dissuade a person from the error of his ways. Indeed, self improvement coaches, counselors and writers exhort us to befriend silence for they have personal knowledge of its power.

For decades I have sought silence several times every day and cannot imagine what it would be like never to experience this peace and quiet and the benefits it brings me. Silence refreshes me and heals me of the exhaustion and angst caused by the noise of every day life. Silence provides the spaciousness in which my many scattered parts can come together and mend. Silence provides the canvas upon which my next painting will appear first on the back of my eyelids and then in reality.

What relationship do you have with silence?

46 thoughts on “Silence is Medicine for the Soul

  1. For me it is such a beautiful experience that I get frustrated with myself for not staying there. Why to I want to always return to gaudy noise and mere stimulation!?

      • It gives me this incredible mojo – I can hardly do a thing wrong and I seem to share this poignant, benevolent rapport with everyone, even strangers. On the rare occasions that inner silence reaches this level of intensity (which is usually preceded by HARD work) what the usual pattern is is: I get these nice side-effects; begin to notice them more and more; begin to get self-conscious about them, and then the spell is gradually broken. The nice effects sort of tail off once the mind is constantly busy. The ego now has taken over again. It doesn’t take long for the restored ego-despot to produce unhealthy thoughts, habits and emotions.

        Once the ego is firmly restored to power, silence, formerly cherished, seems unbearable – there must once again be constant thought throughout the waking hours. The ego must trip over itself numerous times and experience misery in order to be pushed into making the necessary hard efforts once more.

        What this pattern tells me is that I am not a great student of silence, but at least I am not kidding myself either. I know that my efforts produce more than mere good moods (because the good moods emanate from a sort of conscious nothingness – best I can describe it) and I know well that my usual state is unsatisfactory.

  2. This is a really great post. Sometimes I have the TV on or some other distraction and fail to even notice it. At night it’s hard to sleep without some sort of noise; it’s just become part of normal living around here. Tonight, my son went to sleep early, my daughter is at her Grandma’s and I have some sort of cold or flu, I just feel awful and totally stressed lately….for the first time in what seems like FOREVER- I cut the TV off and just sat there- did absolutely nothing but listen to silence. It was so refreshing I may have to do this more often lol. Beautiful writing!

  3. Lovely post TT, and I must say just staying and being in silence can be a wonderful feeling. I guess I am luckly to live in the suburbs of England, too so I have the double opportunity to enjoy silence…. . Switching on the radio the tv no longer becomes a must on a daily bases, instead I have learnt and contiune to learn how to feel confortable with me when on my own.
    .-= Fatima Da´s last blog ..Setting Goals, Monday to Friday with @ Fatibony =-.

    • It’s good to hear from you. I’m sorry my response was delayed. We had a busy work weekend and then I had two days of appointments. It’s good to be back to blogging. :)

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    • We aapreciate the same sounds then. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t. I experience people who are never without man made sound in their homes. At night they turn off the electronic music and video makers but then turn on a white noise fan. When you go out to exercise they wear ipods.

  5. Well, apparently I’m the only weird one here. I don’t like silence. I’m the youngest of 6 children so my house was (and is) always noisy. I thought that living alone I would enjoy silence but, I was wrong. Now I have music or TV on, all the time in my apartment. Even to go to sleep I play music. I know, I should allow myself more quiet time, I just can’t do it :-(.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Halloween 2009 =-.

    • Hmmm … I wonder if this is a birth order thing. I’m the eldest of nine and my husband is the second eldest of seven. We both love silence and became mediators in our twenties. The two youngest in each of our families are noise lovers who dwell in electronic chaos. They have never learned how to meditate and suggesting to them that music be turned down or TV’s be turned off when we visit rankles them. These four cannot bear to be alone and go out of their way to “people” their lives and fill the alone times with noise. We love being alone and prefer to have several hours every day that aren’t populated by people or man made noise.

    • I’m OK with the being alone part. I enjoy not having people around and have my privacy, yet, no silence for me. I have to ask my sister how she feels now that she has her own place. She is the 4th of the 6 ;-).
      .-= Diana´s last blog ..Halloween 2009 =-.

      • @Diana,
        Thanks for returning and clarifying. It will be interesting to hear what your sister has to say. More interesting still would be to hear what your eldest sibling has to say.

  6. Timethief, I too yearn for silence. Unfortunately my wife seems to yearn for noise so I have to sometimes compromise with the headphones and the rain sounds. I don’t know how to make silence white noise :-(

    “Silence refreshes me and heals me of the exhaustion and angst caused by the noise of every day life.”

    OMG, the TV is going right now. SAVE ME.

    Seriously, this was an excellent and high quality article. Thanks!
    .-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..1 Plus 1 Make Eight Hundred and Eighty Six Thousand – 3 Things Necessary For Success That The School System Neglected To Teach You =-.

    • I’m smiling as I read this. My husband and I work together at home in our studio on the ground level and live together in our home on the level above. I’m grateful every day of my life that I married a man who also values silence because if he didn’t I don’t think we would have made it through 30 years of marriage. As it is we both came from very large and noisy families and when we were finally on our own at the top of our list was a desire for silence and privacy achieved by having our own rooms.

      P.S. Thanks for the compliment.

  7. ‘Silence is the Medicine for the Soul': I agree. An insightful post. The following quote by William Penn is quite relevant:

    “True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment. ”
    .-= Meam Wye´s last blog ..Plagiarism =-.

  8. I love the silence. It gives me some kind of peace and I can put everything in place and think this through. It helps me to clear my mind and for some reason I feel more relaxed and well…it’s a part of me. One of my best friend, can’t stand the silence, she is always on the go and always doing things. She can’t stand the feeling when she is alone to hear her thoughts or the think them through.
    It’s funny though, she often feels relaxed and more herself when she’s with me. And we do have moments that we don’t have to talk and we are just silent, sitting next to each other. Maybe it is because I know her for soo long that she can allow herself to sit in silence and be deep in thoughts when she is with me. She is alone with her thoughts, but still not completely because she is with me.

    Hmm something like that haha. I’m not so sure if I explained it okay ^_^’.

    Thanks for sharing this TT! Take care, TJ

    • There are many people like your friend. I have likewise noticed that long time friends of mine, who weren’t inclined towards allowing silent spaces in our converstaions when we first met, no longer have to fill every quiet space with words. I think you are onto something. I believe that the fact that we have such long standing friendships, and that they are confident that I will be there for them when needed has helped them develop the self confidence required to be comfortable during these brief silences. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your observations and thoughts too.

      “Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts. —
      Margaret Lee Runbeck

  9. Having been born in a city and lived in one all my life, I have found silence only in reading and in my work as a designer and artist. I have retired from all of that now and I find the same silence in writing my blog. The outside noise, the inside noise, is there, the interruptions are there, but the silence returns as I concentrate on my work, my conversations, my task at hand. The world is indeed built on noise, and it gets noisier every year; but,it is up to us to give as much of our attention as possible to what we are doing. Our point of control is in the present, whether we are meditating or attending to the most humble tasks. The following lines from the Sutta Nipata are my inspiration:

    The way to liberation is to train yourself to live in the present without wanting to become anything. Give up becoming this or that;live without cravings and experience the present moment with full attention, then you will not cringe at death or seek repeated birth.

    This, of course,in no way says that silence is not to be valued highly. Namaste.
    Count Sneaky
    .-= Count Sneaky´s last blog .. =-.

    • @Count Sneaky
      “The world is indeed built on noise, and it gets noisier every year; but,it is up to us to give as much of our attention as possible to what we are doing. Our point of control is in the present, whether we are meditating or attending to the most humble tasks.”

      As usual you hit the nail on the head. I would like to share a quote with you:

      In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth — Mahatma Gandhi

      Namaste dear friend

  10. Silence has always been my companion ever since. In my observation of life, people tend to act upon instincts instead of contemplating for a while to make some logical judgment. I have erred on many times because I’m fast with my arbitrariness and less with my reflective silence. This world could be a much better place if we could be more silent and contemplative. :-)

    • I agree that the world, or shall I say the people in it, would be a happier place if more of us were contemplative and seekers of silence. All judgments and decisions are better made after we have observed our initial inclinations, stopped cogitating and sought the silence.

  11. It’s interesting, this concept of silence. I actually never have it in my life. Though I work mainly from home and alone, and I might not have the TV or any music playing, I hear my fingers tapping on the keyboard, I hear my caller ID globe, and I sometimes hear the clock above my TV. When I go to bed at night I have to turn the fan on to sleep. If I don’t, I hear everything. I hear hums; I hear the wind. I can hear the cars on the highway that’s about a mile and a half away. I can actually hear the train, which is about 4 or 5 miles away, without any effort. I hear the hum of electricity running all this stuff in my room, even when it’s off, because it’s never quite off as long as stuff is plugged in. And I can hear my heart beating; it’s freaky.

    So, no silence for me; weird, eh?
    .-= Mitch´s last blog ..Intuition Revisited =-.

    • @Mitch
      Your response is not weird. Most of us live “on the grid” and are therefore not accustomed to functioning in a natural sound only environment. I have had family and friends visit me who struggled with their addiction to man made sound and their desire to have techno sound and/or white noise happening at all times. Those who stay for a short while never experience the silence of which I speak. Those who remain for weeks do experience the separation of man made sounds from nature sounds. Some of the latter learn how to meditate and experience the silence of which I speak, and some don’t.

      Thank you for reading and for commenting too.

  12. I love silence. As the old rule says: silence is golden. When one is in pain, the noise of everyday life further stirs up that pain and in its worse creates problems with our relationships towards other people. The monkey yammering in your mind is something I could relate too. There are times that the more we seek silence, the more that mental clock ticks like a naughty child pestering you to submit. These days with the family situation I am in(which also explains my absence from social networking ) , I need that silence. Thanks for reminding us, that there is more to life than making a point and talking loud.
    .-= celticmusicfan´s last blog ..A Little Bit Behind. =-.

    • I’ve been missing you and some other bloggers too so it’s wonderful to see your comment here.

      We are alike in that we both we appreciate music and silence, and both play an important role in our lives.

      I used the monkey mind analogy as many of us can relate to it. Those who learn to meditate tend to have one of two experiences that are obstacles to reaching the meditative state. They either have “monkey mind” or they tend to fall asleep. I have “monkey mind” and I have learned to even smile fondly as my monkey mind presents all kinds of visuals, noise, thoughts, and data to analyze. My monkey mind has a huge bags of tricks but once acknowledged and not followed or interacted with it settles down and I can make the meditative shift.

      It’s good to make contact with you again. I’ll be over to visit you tomorrow as I have a preschool Halloween party to attend today.

  13. I LOVE silence. The only time I was really aware of the total silence was up on a hill in S. Arizona, miles away from anywhere. After sitting & enjoying it for quite a while, I commented on it to my friend–my whisper seemed almost a shout.
    Even now I enjoy the “peace & quiet” of nature, but when you really listen, nature is hardly quiet!

    • “Even now I enjoy the “peace & quiet” of nature, but when you really listen, nature is hardly quiet!”

      That’s so true. Nature isn’t quiet. When I walk in the early mornings as I did today I hear all kinds of natural sounds from leaves and branches moving in the wind, to woodpecker families hammering on trees, to songbirds singing in the branches, sea lions barking on the shoreline, and fish splashing in the ocean.

      There are always natural sounds but man made sounds tend to drown the natural sounds out, jangle the nerves and provoke frustration and irritation. When I visit neighbors and they have a radio or TV yammering away as we converse over a cup or coffee or tea, I’m hard pressed not to get up and turn their dratted noisemakers off.

  14. My husband grew up in the projects and lived in apartments all his life. He has never had “silence.” The second night that we were in our new home, my husband had no clue as to what to do. We had no internet, no furniture. We threw virtually every thing away. I told him to sit on our brand new carpet and relax.

    My husband is the type that can’t figure meditation out. He’ll be in the middle of it and start talking. I guess his mind is so full of thoughts and ideas and sometimes he just can’t stop. I told him to close his eyes and empty his brain. He couldn’t at first. I said “Do you hear that?” He stated “What? I don’t hear anything.” “Exactly. There are no neighbors bounding on our ceiling at 2:00 AM, no booming music at 11:00 PM, no people outside our window doing drugs, no people whining about how someone called them a name on MySpace.”

    This is his time to just be and not analyze it. We lay on our carpet and for the first time in seven years had complete silence. Our neighbors were in bed or appeared to be, the kids were sleeping, no blaring music. The first time in years I felt completely relaxed. I think I may get back to my yoga routine. My neighborhood had been so noisy it knocked me out of my mood and I daresay put me in depression on most days.

    I crave silence. I inherited that from my grandmother who on many occasions when I talked too much told me, “Listen to the butterflies.”
    .-= Shirley´s last blog ..My Thoughts Always: Trick or Treat! =-.

    • Wow! Your description of laying on your carpet and experiencing silence in your new home brought tears to my eyes. Nonstop noise is IMO a spirit quencher. So much of what we hear has no actual value. It distracts us from what we are doing and most of all from what we are truly feeling. In contrast when we are totally relaxed in the silence we are filled and re-energized. I’m happy to hear that you intend to take up meditation again. Also as your hubby is not accustomed to meditation perhaps an outdoor walking meditation is a good place for him to start. He can walk in silence and simply be mindful of what nature presents without chasing after what he sees in his thoughts.

  15. I can have whole days of silence working in the studio, and enjoy solitude. It is very restive for the soul, or sometimes just sitting with a cup of tea and enjoying a view of the garden.
    .-= jafabrit´s last blog ..A is for Art =-.

    • I prefer to work in silence in my studio as well. And, as well as taking meditation breaks during the day I do as you do. I sit with a cup of tea and gaze into the flower garden that my deck has become. It’s a huge covered deck and as the time for the first frost is approaching this weekend I will have to take down all the hanging flower baskets and remove all the flowers from their containers for storage until next year. Once the flowers are gone then my winter view will be of forest, meadows, pastures and encompassing skyscapes.

  16. TT, I love the sound of silence too. Nothing irritates me than a noisy place and that is a kind of disability in India! Indian cities and neighborhoods are fairly noisy and complaining about noise can make you seem kind of anti-social. In fact our religious festivals are celebrated with great noise and gusto and noise limits at night are not kept in mind. Not that many seem to mind or if they do, they keep quiet! That is why to get silence one has to seek out places, like holiday spots. Recently we shifted to a quiet neigbourhood and we can hear the sound of chirping birds clearly for the first time! The sounds of nature bring me peace too.
    .-= Nita´s last blog ..Michael Jackson’s hands reveal his strengths and weaknesses =-.

    • @Nita
      I live on a very small semi remote island in a very small community. Where I live there is blessed silence. Here where there is no microwave tower for cellphone reception etc. we can hear the birds and tree frogs singing, the sea lions barking, the waves pounding on the shore, and the trees sighing in the wind.

      When I visit cities I get headaches from all the non-stop noise and light and air pollution. Infrequent visits remind me to be grateful for the wonderful lifestyle I live in location where man made sounds do not assail ours ears all day and all night long.

  17. Aaaah silence is golden as they say. :) First of all, how are you? I had been really busy and I yearn silence from the “madhouse”, that I love.

    I believe, silence is very important for our well-being. Not only does it relax our mind but our physical being as well. I believe our higher-self constantly communicates with us but with all the noise pollutants that surrounds our daily lives, it is almost impossible to hear our own minds. We are so constantly caught up with the fast pace of technology, where everything is at a touch of a button that we forget our mind needs nurturing.

    I meditate a lot, no matter how hectic my schedule is. Though meditation, I can appreciate the silence and listen to my inner guidance.
    .-= Funkkeejooce´s last blog ..Benson =-.

    • Thanks so much for reading and sharing. The good news is that health wise I’m improving. The Shingles lesions are almost all healed and the pain from the nerves has subsided. Whew! It was awful at first. I believe what you have expressed about silence and what your relationship is with it parallels my own experience. Our everyday lives are polluted with unnecessary and distracting noise. As we rely more and more on technology as an information source we need to become aware of what is simply “noise” and which communications are of value to us. Rather than opening myself up to even more noise that drains me of energy I am focused on maintaining my association with silence which nurtures me.

  18. I love silence indeed. I’m a person in my late 30’s and somehow I no longer appreciate too much socializing and parties and always have a time being alone after work or even in weekends. But of course i still dine with some friends or take a break by going on vacation, but definitely not to surround myself with too much people. I always find myself at my best while I’m alone, really introvert person.

    In silence I smile most of the time, even laugh alone while recalling those fun and happy times I have had with my family and friends back home. Or sometimes I’m just sitting without thinking anything at all, could be just staring at one object…or close my eyes but never fall asleep.

    Yes, silence relieves some of the inner sadness I have had for a day, if I cry sometimes, I think its healthy. In silence we can see our real self, to reflect on things… as this experience will not happen if we’re always surrounded with people that intimidates and drains our energy.

    I love silence indeed.

    • Like you I’m an introvert. I was raised in a home that had no power or running water until I was about 12 going on 13. When my household did get electricity and radio and TV I found the clamor to be obnoxious and preferred to be outside where I couldn’t here it.

      I learned how to meditate in my 20’s and have a lengthy history of daily practice. I love silence. It concerns me when I meet others who fear it and/or who have never experienced it because that means they have never been in touch with their true self. In other words, they have yet to awakened and become conscious.

  19. Silence, yes… interesting topic.

    One reason I think it’s very important is because silence allows you to hear you internal dialog better and become aware of your thinking patterns. And that is the base for changing your thought patterns, which is the base for changing your emotions, which is the base for changing your behavior and becoming more productive.

    Eduard

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