The Power of Silence

Some years ago, Channel 4 ran  a series of programmes regarding silence.  It encouraged people from a variety of backgrounds to practice bringing an element of silence into their day.  They were taken to a monastery and were given much support in order to be able to engage in the practice once home.


It was an interesting opportunity to be a ‘fly on the wall’ to watch how others at times, struggled, with something that is on the surface, comparatively easy.


I have always been excited at the prospect of a contemplative life, but as a layperson, need to be able to balance a busy life with spiritual pursuits.


In the mindfulness course I ran at the start of the summer, the group engaged in mindful listening.  They were instructed not to try to fill the gaps that may appear when speaking, and instead, remain with the silence that followed.


Human nature forces us to constantly keep filling the gap, whereas my meditation and Dharma teacher’s favourite mantra is ‘mind the gap’.


Our lives are busy and we are in complete ‘surround sound’ the whole time, even internally with our thoughts and the running commentary we give ourselves.


Learning to sit and simply be is a time honoured practice, but this can be taken off the cushion and into our everyday world.


On a regular basis I will choose a day (when not needing to teach) where it will be declared a day of silence.  My family are pre-warned and will be reminded of the day as it looms.  Whilst I look forward to this day, my family on the other hand hate it with a vengeance.  From the start of the day, they are alerted to needing to wake up for school and work with a gentle sounding bell or singing bowl.


They have been given enough notice to know that I am unable to answer any questions about school uniform, homework, invoices or the like until after the end of the silent period (usually dinner time).  They forget, then get upset when I simply smile at them.  I do not turn on my mobile phones, the computer, check emails or anything.  Instead, after all have departed, I am left with the sweetest sound of all – silence.  During this time I will sit and meditate, or practice yoga (without background music) or go for walks where I can just drink in the sounds around me.


It is an interesting process to be able to notice how quickly we can manage without having to speak.  To be on the safe side I wear a badge that says I am on a silent retreat.  Gets a few strange looks, but after all these years, I’m pretty much used to it!


What have you got to lose? 

Try it for yourself, half an hour or even an hour to begin with.


In Silence there is eloquence.

Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves – Rumi


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