“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing And right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass The world is too full to talk about”
Deep inside all of us resides what I call our natural rhythm, a healing rhythm that most of us have forgotten exists. We spend so much of our lives living outside of ourselves, that we have become disconnected from this natural rhythm.
What is it?
We are so afraid of being fully alone with ourselves that we fill our lives with endless distractions and activities, searching for fulfillment and wellbeing outside ourselves in wealth, success and power. We distract ourselves with TV, the internet, social media, and of course video games. It seems most people are doing absolutely everything to avoid themselves. In addition many people are afraid of silence because they are afraid of what they might find there — the proverbial skeletons in the closet. In prison for instance the worst kind of punishment is solitary confinement. People literally go insane when left to themselves. For many people silence, being surrounded by quiet activates their fight and flight response, creating a sense of anticipation or anxiety — an expectation that something is about to jump from behind the bushes.
The Cultivation of Deep Patience
Inuit hunters have a word, ‘quinuituq,’ that means a deep patience needed while waiting for something to happen. Inviting silence into your life is a process of ‘quinuituq’ — being patient as we wait to find that which we have lost: our inner rhythm, our balance point. In other-words, finding inner rhythm and balance isn't something we go out to find, but rather to allow it to reclaim us. This is counter to what our modern society has taught us. Modern society tells us: we need to hustle, we need to get out there and make our mark, success after all doesn’t come to those who wait. But yet, and again, so much of what modern society requires is a distancing from ourselves. Modern society draws out and leaves the best of us on the sacrificial alter of consumerism, until we no longer have a clue of who we are. Learning to be in silence, is in a way reclaiming what we have given up unknowingly thinking it will serve a greater purpose — when it never can — because modernity is built upon capitalistic cannibalism focused on its own selfish desire: profit.
There is no ‘profit’ to anyone when you seek silence, outside of the unmeasurable bounty accrued to your own inner wellbeing. By coming home to silence you step out of the hedonistic treadmill. But, if that’s not convincing enough, here’s some research to back that up. Silence has shown to lower blood pressure, boost the body’s immune system and benefit brain chemistry by growing new cells. For example, Kirste et al. (2013) found that two hours of silence could create new cells in the hippocampus region. The hippocampus is a region of the brain that is linked to learning, remembering, and emotions.
Bernardi, et al. (2006) showed that as little as two minutes of silence can relieve tension in the body and brain. This is the opposite to what noise invokes which is to increase stress and tension in the body. Probably for most of us especially in the modern world who are constantly battling incessant noise pollution, is that time in silence allows the brain to ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. As Stephen Kaplan (1995) has noted, silence allows the brain to stand down from its sensory guard, allowing it to restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excessive noise.
“Silence is a source of great strength.”
– Lao Tzu
How To Invite Silence into Your Life
There is no right or wrong way to invite silence into your life, other that clearing a path for it to show up. By far the most profound moments of silence I have had in my life are walks out in nature. Walking alone, in silence, just with myself, and the natural world as my wonder is an invigorating experience. The key here is to leave all modern distractions behind, iPhone, EarPods, etc.
I have found it equally important throughout my walks in silence, to take a seat every now and then and simply observe. Sitting still with my eyes wide open, without having to make sense of what I hear, see and smell, brings me back to the natural rhythm I have spoken about in this article. That natural rhythm is that space between stimulus and response. It’s a place of creativity, inspiration, and awe.
It takes practice of course to stay there. As was noted earlier, with so much of our lives lived outside ourselves, when we stop, breathe, and quiet down, we initially feel pulled: surely we should be doing something else? But given enough time, and practice, you will feel the call to silence echoing inside your soul.
"Everything that's created comes out of silence. Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Your words come out of this void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness."
- Wayne Dyer