We've heard it's golden. But what does that actually mean?
In our current age of endless distraction and busy urban sprawl, silence has turned into a more precious commodity than gold. The silence I speak of, however, may not be the silence you are thinking of. Silence in its entirety is not an easy thing to obtain. In fact, reaching a state of utter and pure silence may only be reserved for the dead. Nature is loud like our cities are loud. Escaping the buzzing and flitting of living life is simply not possible. The silence I see as golden and as missing is the silence within -- the limitless spaciousness residing in all of us. We as humans have the ability to create within ourselves a sacred space of silence. We can allow ourselves access to this endless space whenever we feel scared, stressed, confused, or scattered. This is the space we can tap into for ultimate rest and rejuvenation when our outer worlds seem to be spinning, chaotic messes.
It sounds easy right? Then why is the struggle for silence so real and so difficult? The idea of sitting, simply sitting with no agenda, with no where to be, with nothing to do, is not a common practice in our current culture. We have very few examples by which we draw inspiration or knowledge. So how is the common person supposed to start a silence practice?
Here are a few simple steps to take to start developing a silence practice.
1) TURN OFF YOUR PHONE
When was the last time you turned your phone off completely? When was the last time you left it at home, intentionally? When was the last time you didn't feel the need to take a picture of your dinner, call your friend, or check facebook on the way to work?
Turning off your smart phone limits the number of distractions almost immediately. We lose our connection to the internet. We lose our ability to reach out to anyone at any time. We lose our cameras and our apps. What do we gain? A sense of freedom and, more importantly, a little silence.
2) GO TO A YOGA CLASS
I'm not just saying this because I am a yoga teacher and yoga advocate. What you will find in yoga besides spandex and challenging postures is silence. The teacher will encourage you to pay attention to your breath, the gateway to our internal landscape. The teacher will ask you to start paying attention to the space in between thoughts -- those sweetly silence gaps of nothing. Yoga is a beautiful introduction to the benefits of silence. Svasana, the final resting posture marking the end of class, provides the student a five minute break to do nothing but breathe and connect with the earth. No one talks. No one moves. There is only breathe and the quiet of rest.
3) GO OUT INTO NATURE
As I mentioned previously, nature is not inherently quiet. Winds makes the trees speak and birds send out their melodies all day and all night. Creatures are not quiet things. Plants do not rest without sound. Yet we ourselves can better attain a sense of silence when surrounded by nature. Often we hear that going out into nature can dramatically benefit our emotional and mental well being. Why is that? Because in nature, we disconnect. We see that there is no where else to be but exactly where our feet are. I encourage you to go out into nature sans phone or camera or ipod or company. Simply go, and nourish yourself with a gentle, silent walk.
4) SIT WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED
When you close your eyes you shut out visual stimulation. You become more present in your body. I am not suggesting that our internal chatter shuts off the moment we close our eyes, but that it becomes easier to settle into silence when we take a moment to close ourselves off form the outer world and focus on our breath.
These are only a few examples of how to practice at silence. There are myriad ways of settling into the nothingness. You may be wondering why try at all? Why discontinue, if only for a moment, your connection to the noise? What do we inherit when we practice silence?
We listen better. We understand more clearly. We feel calmer, more balanced, and nurtured. A sense of ease replaces a sense of dis-ease. Concentration improves. Expectations die down. Peace washes over us. Emotions stabilize. Intuition blooms. The heart speaks. We learn our truths. We understand our connection to the universe more fully. Patience spikes. Stagnation and blocks release. Openness spreads. We become more aware, more conscious, and more observant.
Through silence, we uncover the depths of our selves. When we uncover the depths of our selves, we uncover the depths of the world.
Give silence a try. See what happens when you disconnect. See what happens in the nothingness. Your Self will thank you.
San Francisco native Zoe Jones is a writer, yoga instructor, hoop dancer, and life lover. She calls San Francisco home and spends her days contemplating the contemplative bits of life, hooping in her living room, unraveling on her mat, and singing much, much too loudly.
Woman Sitting on Mountain Top image courtesy of Shutterstock