10 Ways To Practice Silence
Fear less, hope more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Hate less, love more; And all good things are yours. -Swedish proverb
There’s something I value now in my life more than I ever did in the past – it is silence. Those moments when I am not being asked a million questions, those moments when I can actually hear the wind blow outside and the birds sing, those moments when I am not interrupted by a vibrating phone. Finding those moments in my twenties was easy (I just did not take advantage of them), finding those moments as a mom and wife are a bit harder. It is in those silent moments when my mind is clear, I feel more in tune with nature and God, I feel peace, and typically I will have a new idea or find inspiration. In a world that tells us we always need to be connected and ‘doing’ ‘doing’ ‘doing’ and ‘talking’ ‘talking’ talking’, here are 10 ways to find silence in your daily life:
1. Stop Talking – We live in a world that makes silence uncomfortable. Sometimes we find ourselves talking just to talk. I know I have had moments when I am just blabbing away and even think to myself, “Why am I still talking, please stop now…or now…or now.” We all know people who just can’t seem to stop talking, those that no one can get a word in edge wise, who go on and on and on to the point you wonder if they are ever going to take a breath. Think about those instances when someone feels the need to talk so much and so loudly, but never really says anything at all. The easiest way to find silence is stop talking and resist that urge to fill the silence when it happens. Growing up I was very shy, when I was a child people would often remark to my parents, “She’s so quiet.” In high school I began to ‘come out of my shell’ as people say, although even in college I was still very reserved in jumping into the conversation. Maybe it was simply maturing, maybe it was having more experiences, maybe it was being more comfortable with my thoughts, but in my twenties I became a ‘talker’ and even now I could certainly learn a lesson from my quieter, younger self.
2. Choose Your Words Wisely – Talk with a purpose, accomplish something good with your words. When you do speak say something that inspires, something that makes people laugh, something that shows wisdom, something that shows love.
Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools speak because they have to say something. -Plato
3. Listen – We are all guilty of having conversations in which we are ‘halfway listening’ meaning we take in the overall topic our friend or coworker may be saying all the while thinking about what we want to say next and when can we jump in. This is another opportunity where we can practice silence and not just being silent with our mouths, but actually listen to the conversation happening at that moment, not tuning the other person out and thinking, “What should I say next?”
4. Don’t React – Silence can be an incredible gift in the midst of conflict. Whether you are arguing with your spouse or a coworker decides to practice ‘random acts of rudeness’ with you, there is nothing that says, other than your ‘ego’, that you have to react. Silence allows you to hear what the other person is saying and reflect on what is really intended and what is really important in the situation. Think about a situation where instead of simply being silent and reflective, you reacted instantly to what was said either with words or a text. Now think about that situation and what would have happened if you had remained silent – maybe the conflict would have simply faded away because it just wasn’t that big of a deal or maybe you would have left the conversation and came back to it with a more clear mind and more mature thoughts.
Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom -Francis Bacon
5. Be Mindful – Being mindful may sound complicated but it is actually the opposite, it means simply being in the moment and not thinking about ‘what’s next’. Being mindful is important in being silent because it is a way to turn off the noise in your head. When you wake up do not hop on your iphone or check email, but instead be aware of your body waking up. Open your eyes, look outside, feel your feet against the floor. When you are brushing your teeth do not start thinking about the contract you have to get signed at work, but instead focus on your teeth. When you are with your children, silently observe them and enjoy watching them play and discover. Be in the moment that is happening in the present.
6. Turn Off The Screens – How many times do we enter our house and the first thing we do is turn on the TV, not because we have to see a show, but because we have to have ‘noise’. Just don’t do it. There are TV shows my husband and I love, but when they are not on, neither is our TV. For a period of time I would drop my daughter off at school and then work on my laptop while watching the Today Show, after a couple months of that, I had enough – the gossip instead of reporting, the judgement instead of actual news, and the mindless chatter was not productive and I realized how precious that gift of silence is. Not too long ago an editor friend and I were eating in Nashville, we both expressed how unfocused we were because of our iphones – we would be writing an article and right when we were in our groove, ‘buzzzzzzz’, and just like that, concentration broken. Now we both turn off our phones while we are in the middle of something important. Screens of any kind are distractions and interfere immensely with us being able to concentrate whether it is on work, family, or simply just being silent. Our smart phones are the ultimate mindlessness, always there, always connected, always distracting. As much as I participate in social media, I also hop on and hop off, I notice during any period of time I spend on Facebook or Twitter longer than 1 minute makes my brain feel like scrambled eggs. Your mouth may be quiet, the room you are in may be quiet, but if there is a screen on your mind is not quiet. As much as our screens may improve our lives, they also can be unhealthy distractions that have to be kept in check. If you feel like you ‘can’t turn it off’, it is time to turn it off. The gift of silence should be more important than checking Facebook.
7. Be Outside – One of the greatest joys in my life is gardening. For me it is a soulful connection to the earth and it never ceases to amaze me when I see something I have planted grow into a vegetable or flower. When my hands are in the dirt I am silent, my mind is clear, and my thoughts aren’t on ‘what’s next’ but on those little seeds I am planting in the ground. Maybe gardening isn’t your thing, maybe you love to hike or fish or sail or play golf, find something that takes you outside that you can enjoy by yourself. Something where you can be more in tune with nature, the trees, the animals, the water. When we observe nature, we realize just how insignificant we are and how beautiful it is to be a part of this ecosystem.
8. Breathe – When we concentrate on breathing in and breathing out deeply, instead of what are we going to say next or what do we need to be thinking about, we can truly clear our minds. It is when we are able to simply breathe in and out that we begin to hear our inner voice, our heart, our spirit.
God’s one and only voice is Silence. -Herman Melville
9. Prayer and Meditation – There is a reason monks take a vow of silence, it is to be closer to God. By taking that vow they practice a life of work and prayer. Many religious people pray over and over in their heads to achieve a silent mind. Christian monks pray the Jesus prayer – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Tibetan monks pray by saying, “May all beings be happy and have the causes of happiness. May they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.” Prayer can be a beautiful part of life and when practiced daily you are able to have those moments of silence and quiet your mind from the noise of the world.
10. Watch The Sunset – There’s not many things more inspiring than a beautiful sunset. Next time you see the sun setting on the horizon and its beauty takes your breath away. Stop and watch it in silence. No need to speak, no need to think, no need to take a picture, just observe nature’s masterpiece.