Silence is truly golden - it keeps you sane
WHY are we suspicious of silence when it provides us with so many benefits?
A sociology professor walked into his classroom of around 200 students. Taking his chair, he sat for 15 minutes in silence. He didn't look at his watch, took no notice of his newspaper and his phone was left on his desk. He simply sat, facing his students.
At the point where some were about to burst - so intolerable is life without sound - the professor asked, "What's happening here? Why are we embarrassed by silence? What comfort do we find in all the noise?"
A few years ago during a stay at a monastery, I felt extremely anxious. For so long, I hadn't gone a single day without typing something into my laptop, answering calls and checking my e-mail. The idea of going more than a day or two without listening to music was horrifying. What was I doing in a place where I could do none of this - was I mad?
Despite my best efforts of appearing all Zen-like, my brain must have neglected to tell my face what the plan was. Within a few minutes, a passing monk stopped to chat, asking me how I was getting on. Admittedly, I was tempted to say: "Fine, thank you - I should be one with nature by teatime."
Instead, I confided that I was struggling, having never lived in a place where a TV wasn't available. The monk laughed kindly and said: "When was the last time your mind enjoyed a single moment of peace?" He walked off, Zen-like, leaving me to wrestle with this conundrum.
After a while, it struck me that my mind had likely never enjoyed a single moment of peace. Even while sleeping, dreams can keep the poor thing tossing and turning. Every day, I joined everyone else in always doing something.
Even when we're not physically engaged in a task, we're thinking about the day ahead or wandering off to the past. If we worked our bodies as much as we work our minds, we'd no doubt collapse under the strain.
It was at this point that I decided to go back to my room and do nothing, safe in the knowledge that the world would carry on just fine. I realised that we seldom, if ever, take any time to be silent. In fact, we usually do what we can to avoid it - there's something fearful about silence; suspicious, even. We feel if we're not doing something, we should at least be listening to some background noise, processing some information.
When we consider the amount of hours we spend working, the time spent with friends and family, watching TV and so on, silence isn't easy to find. However, spending even a few minutes each day in quiet solitude can have a tremendous impact on our health and mental well-being.
SLOW YOUR MIND DOWN
We tend to live our lives as if we're sitting in a car. We keep moving forward, while everything whizzes past us.
Spending time in silence is a wonderful way to renew ourselves and recharge the batteries. While a strong body comes through pushing it beyond its limit, a stable mind is developed through calming silence and solitude.
DAMPEN THE INNER CHAT
It's not just the external environment that brings us stress; so much of our inner noise can be the biggest cause of our worries and headaches, especially when we self-criticise and doubt ourselves. Spending time in silence can reduce the inner monologues and help us to let go of whatever has been nagging at us.
MAKING TOUGH DECISIONS
Ever had a tough choice to make? You'd be amazed at how much silence helps the process.
When we clear our minds of distracting clutter, our time in solitude cultivates inspiration that allows us to be bold enough to recognise what we truly desire. Try taking a few minutes to sit with a difficult decision and see what happens.
FIND YOUR STRENGTH
On occasion, life can be overwhelming. Whether it is getting to grips with major life changes or taking on new responsibilities, it can feel like you just don't have enough in the tank to get through it. Quiet moments aren't just great for relaxation. They also provide an opportunity for soul-searching, allowing you to discover the inner strength needed to overcome life's obstacles.
Spending time in silence can feel counter-intuitive; after all, there's stuff to do - life is happening in every second that passes.
Spending moments of solitude may go against the grain initially but if we can learn to embrace such moments, they provide us hints of our capabilities and insights into who we are.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK