Silence is either a welcome thing or a dreaded thing for many people. Lately it’s been a rare thing for me.
I wrote about The Power of Silence and Solitude more than a year ago when I first started writing this weekly column, but I thought it was time to revisit the issue.
Our lives can get busy, hectic, stressful and loud, especially if like myself, you come from a large family. With large families, come many family obligations and events. Work and home life can be a balancing act that at times I master, while I drop the ball in one or both areas at other times.
So, for me, silence is a welcome friend. It is in times of silence that my most inspired ideas have come to me. Ever notice how loud your mind can be? Try and sit for a moment and not think about anything. Like me, you’ll probably find that silencing your mind is not an easy thing to accomplish.
My mind tends to race non-stop most of the time. I’m either thinking about work, family issues, friends, things I’m learning, stories I’m working on, projects that need to be completed, phone calls I need to make, tasks that I’ve been putting off, or a million other things. Trying to silence my mind is a challenge.
But when I do accomplish it, beautiful things begin to happen. Walter Savage Landor said, “Solitude is the audience-chamber of God.” Many artists, such as Akiane Kramarik, claim that in silence God has shown them things, which they express in their artwork. Many of my own poems are a result of time spent in silent prayer.
Diodicus said, “A properly kept silence is a beautiful thing; it is nothing less then the father of very wise thoughts.” I like how he called it a “properly kept silence.” I have had moments of being alone in my home, which is also rare, but those are not necessarily well-kept moments of silence. I think what it meant is that, for silence to be productive, we must allow ourselves to be fully present in the moment, with no other thoughts than what exists in that moment.
Let’s take a simple conversation. In the course of speaking with others, there are those moments when no one is saying anything. We have come to call those moments “awkward silence.” This is a term society has conditioned us to think of as a bad thing; however, silence in conversation may be a good thing. Too often we speak without thinking first. Even more rarely do we think about what was just spoken.
I see the consequences of this type of non-silence every day. Young people text each other non-stop, often saying hurtful things. It’s so easy to just keep going and not really contemplate on what they themselves said, or what the other person said. Sadly, a few cases have ended with a young person committing suicide. Silence in this type of situation could have resulted in a much different ending.
Psychologist Bob Edelstein said, “We live in a culture that values sharing every thought and feeling as it occurs. As a result, we often don’t pause to reflect on what we have just said.” He went on to state that, when we pay more close attention to the silence within our conversations, we could better connect with others and with ourselves.
Perhaps non-silence is a reason why so many college students still claim not to know who they are or what they want out of life. Many adults as well still make that same claim.
Perhaps if we sat silently and really paid attention to what brings us joy, what lights us up, what gives us energy, what motivates us, then the bigger life decisions wouldn’t seem so hard and overwhelming. In silence you can get to know yourself.
Try being silent this next week, try paying more attention to the silence in your conversations and you may be able to read between the lines, try noticing the silence around you and you may find beauty you’ve never seen before.
Tori Vigil is an author, inspirational speaker and reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.