Listening to Silence

Have you ever acknowledged the stillness of a dark and surreptitious night? Have you ever noticed the absolute tranquility in the air sometimes after the passing of a storm? Or when visiting the woods or desert, have you ever felt the embrace of the vast atmosphere, leaving you alone with your thoughts? I suppose the main question here is have you ever experienced the power of silence? If the answer is yes, then you're very fortunate.

The meaning and relationship we have with silence varies greatly depending on time, place and personality types but generally it can be defined as the absence of sound or complete stillness. While it's true that words help us to identify, connect and interpret the world we live in, silence can be just as eloquent and communicative. Words can be twisted, manipulative and have multiple meanings. Silence, on the other hand, will remain a more consistent companion, always inviting us to leave the banality of hectic existence so that we can escape into the tavern of our minds.

Try it now. Find a quite spot, take a few deep breaths and enjoy the peace and quiet that silence begins to offer. Notice how both physical and psychological changes begin to happen almost immediately.

Silence speaks the international language of reflection. In many ways, it allows us to become more self-aware, to think about profound and trivial matters. Lawrence Durrell, a British author, said, "Does not everything depend on the interpretation of the silence around us?"

Some people consider silence an impediment, or awkward and uncomfortable. They complain that they can't sit with silence without feeling a twinge of restlessness and a need to fill the stillness with words. Why do we suddenly feel this urge to engage in meaningless chitter chatter? Perhaps because we're so used to the constant humdrum and buzzing activity so a silent moment is perceived as something out of the ordinary -- possibly even unproductive and useless.

Most of us have experienced conflict that can arise from a lack of restraint in speech. Are there such faults associated with silence? Gandhi said, "It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart." If you see the wind in its calmness, it has a peaceful and pleasurable quality to it but the same wind once in motion can turn violent in stormy weathers. The same can be said of words. Of course there's a huge difference between taking a few moments to ponder, cool off and consider options and outright ignoring or giving the person a "silent treatment." This kind of deliberate shutting out isn't a productive way of interacting with one another and can lead to frustration and anger.

When the mind is silent, all unnecessary and wandering thoughts are emptied, allowing peace to dominate, leaving us feeling relaxed and balanced. Solid as a rock yet light as feather. I've recently started an inspiring program in Dubai called "Life Clubs," where we meet once a week to reflect on a set topic in a structured and self-directed manner. During a recent workshop, we worked on embracing silence and it was so interesting to see the range of experiences felt such as feeling uncomfortable, clam, agitated, reflective, anxious and free.

The disadvantage of silence, in excess, is that it can lead to isolation or feeling cut off from others. It's all about finding the calm and control amongst the chaos. Like with most things, it's best to experience silence in small doses in order to help recharge our inner selves and overworked minds.

Remember, learning more results in living more...