Silence is golden, especially when jumping on or off the familiar buzz wagon of city living. For Salome Voegelin, “Silence is not the absence of sound but the beginning of listening, not of [external] noises, but from inside; from the body, where subjectivity is at the center of sound production, audible to self. Silence reveals to me my own sounds: my head, my stomach, my body becomes their conductor.”
Think about it, dismounting from one flow to another requires some type of calculative adjustment of pace, time and intention. Once in sync with a new wave, it’s time to embark on another. This is the rhythm of cycles and how phases operate. Instead of resisting ebbs and flows, why not observe and embrace the limitless potential that awaits on the other side of this moment.
Have you ever paid attention to the sound of rain drops? Or listened to the calm after the storm passes? Did you know listen and silent are spelled with the same letters? What I’m really asking is whether you’ve experienced the power of listening to silence and inward connection. It’s not easy, but the results are undeniably worth it.
I completed my first silent retreat during the first seven days of 2017. Initially, the aim was to remain mindful and observant while serenity washed over me. However, what I discovered exceeded my imagination. I came close to ditching the idea when midnight January 1st arrived, but I’m glad this experience set the intention for the flow of this year. I spent the first few days listening to silence – no phone calls, music, tv, alarms or chatter. The only thing surrounding me was the health of my breath and fleeting thoughts.
Some people consider silence an awkward and uncomfortable impediment, associated with punishment. Others perceive silence as unusual, possibly even unproductive and useless. I’ve heard complaints about silent moments being painful, and that restless desire inevitably fills stillness with words, so why bother?
Discipline and Self-control
Why is the urge to engage in chitter chatter considered normal and silence abnormal? What benefits arise from filling void with noise? Perhaps our familiarity with routines and buzzing activity is the culprit, or what if our willingness to do as everyone else is doing contributes to our definition of “normal”?
I’ll admit, the first few days felt like a roller coaster without brakes. The mind’s chatter seemed endless and overwhelming. Once the observations kicked in, the release of “control” followed. I recognized silence as a potent carrier of presence. To be present is to remain here and now, not in the past (nothing can be changed there) or the future (undiscoverable until I arrive). This is the part where I became highly aware of my breath – the duration of my inhale and exhale – and how my heart beats responded to my thoughts and physical responses. It was quite calming and telling of what was happening internally. Unshakable inner peace welcomes steadiness, and when we’re stable external activities can’t possibly rattle your presence.
In essence, silent retreats provide a chance to reset, and return to neutral. From neutral, endless possibilities are birthed.
Toward the seventh day of my home-retreat, I was in cruise control – connected intimately with my inner self and comfortable with my discoveries. Here’s a short list about my experience in silent mode:
- Stillness within connects to surrounding stillness. Once harmonized, clarity and guidance emerge.
- To observe the mind means I’m no longer trapped in it. Be comfortable with being.
- Recognize how often your attention is in the past or future. Don’t judge or analyze observations. Just watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction.
- Endless possibilities dwell in the present moment. Appreciate the gift.
- Tune inward. Know thyself.
Silence speaks louder than words on so many levels. It gives way to reflection; and reflection yields clarity and guidance unlike any other counsel. Silent observation allows us to become more aware and conscious to profound and trivial matters. When the mind is silent, unnecessary and wandering thoughts cease to exist, allowing space for clear direction and decision making in a relaxed and balanced manner.
Try it now. Find a quiet spot in your home, take a few deep breaths and enjoy the calm that silence offers. Notice how physical, emotional and psychological changes happen almost immediately, in small doses.
This is the start of meditation. Enjoy!