How to Practice Silence in Everyday Life?
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Summary: The practice of silence has many advantages. By silence we mean both physical and mental silence. Find out the best ways to practice silence in the comforts of your home.
We do not adequately recognize the importance of silence in our lives. Most people are eager to communicate with others to express their thoughts and feelings for various reasons. With increased innovations and technology, noise has become an inseparable part of our lives. The world is noisier than ever. We do not realize how much stress it causes and disrupts our lives. In these circumstances it is helpful if we find useful ways to experience temporarily peace and silence without disrupting or interrupting our normal lives. In this essay, we will focus upon this problem.
We are so accustomed to noises that we rarely experience quiet moments. Many people feel uncomfortable when they come across silence is social situations. Some may even feel insecure and awkward in the presence of silent people, and experience stress. It is said that even animals do not like silent surroundings, especially when they are accustomed to live in groups. Therefore, they usually make noises to keep in touch with the other members in the group and feel secure. We probably do the same when we are in groups to avoid feeling lonely or left out.
I am not here to suggest that you should lead a silent life or practice silence to become a complete recluse. We cannot live without communicating with others or without expressing our thoughts and desires. The desire for belongingness is an important social need, which cannot be fulfilled without effective communication. At the same time, we cannot make too much noise to seek attention, dominate every conversation or live a very noisy life. As in many other situations, we have to strike a balance by knowing when to step up and remain active and expressive or step back and remain passive and silent in our social behavior and communication.
The advantages of silence
In many respects silence is synonymous with peace. Its practice is beneficial to your health and wellbeing. By silence we mean both physical and mental silence. Verbal silence is good, but mental silence is much better because it relaxes and invigorates your mind which in turn increases your awareness, comprehension, memory, creativity, problem-solving ability, emotional intelligence, and so on.
In many spiritual traditions, people are encouraged to practice inner silence to gain control over their minds and bodies and enter contemplative modes to experience deeper meditative states and mindful awareness or insightful awareness. A few important benefits which arise from the practice of silence are stated below.
- It improves your memory and deeper awareness.
- It helps you control your emotions, impulsive behavior and responses.
- Your observation and understanding improve as you pay more attention.
- In silence you have a better opportunity to empathize with others and know their feelings.
- You conserve your energy as you give rest to your mind and vocal cords.
- You relax more as your stress levels go down.
- Your intuition, creativity and problem-solving ability improve as you become self-aware.
- You will have a better opportunity to think through your problems and plan your actions.
- Your self-awareness increases as you have more time to think about yourself.
- You feel more at peace, as you become more introspective and observant.
- Your relationships improve as you listen more, observe more and care for others.
How to practice silence
You can practice silence in many ways in the comforts of your own home. For example, you can remain silent for a specific period of time during each day, say an hour. Alternatively, you may choose a specific day in a week according to your convenience and do your practice. It not necessary that on such days or occasions, you do not have to speak at all or you have to be silent for a whole day, unless you can afford it or want to do so. You can keep your speaking to the barest minimum and speak only when necessary or when it is unavoidable. The following ones are a few ways by which you can practice silence without disrupting your normal life. You can practice them once or several times in a day according to your convenience to experience peace and relaxation.
- Minimize your speaking to the barest minimum.
- Instead of speaking on phone, use alternative methods such as texting.
- Stop reacting and responding to other people unless it is very important.
- Temporarily switch off your television, radio or other means of entertainment.
- Listen to silence rather than music.
- Switch off your mobile phone when you are practicing silence.
- Change the place where you are less likely to be disturbed.
- Go out for a long walk or spend time in Nature or do gardening work.
- Avoid frivolous talk.
- Begin your day with a few minutes of silent reflection.
- Let other people in your family know that you are observing silence.
- Observe more, listen more and speak less.
Practicing mental and spiritual silence
You can practice mental silence also without disrupting your normal life. For example, you can practice both active and passive meditation to gain control over thoughts and emotions. You can temporarily withdraw your mind and body from your surrounding to experience tranquility. You can slow down and breath slowly to experience calmness, or pause in between your thoughts to break the restlessness of your mind. There are also other methods such as concentration, mindful breathing, yogasanas (yoga postures), aerobic exercises, dance, etc., where you can temporarily experience peace and silence.
The practice of silence is integral to spiritual life in many traditions. It is considered the door to enlightenment. It is in total silence you become aware of the deepest aspects of your personality and consciousness. Hence, in many eastern traditions, spiritual aspirants are encouraged to practice silence for prolonged periods which may extend to several months or years.
For a worldly person, who has a job to do or a family to look after, it may not be possible to shun the world and practice silence for weeks and months. However, as suggested before, you can still strike a balance by intermittently practicing it according to your convenience and priorities. You can make it a part of your normal behavior and daily life by speaking only when necessary, avoiding verbiage and unnecessary conversations.
Some people go to retreats to immerse in silence. If you can bear the costs and want to be motivated or inspired, you may do so. However, I recommend that you practice silence at home, according to your lifestyle and convenience, and make that a regular habit. Resolve to be thoughtful, reflective and analytical, and speak only when necessary. Overtime, silence will become your second nature.
Mental silence is more difficult to practice until you gain control your habitual responses and impulsive reactions. In this regard mindfulness practice is very useful. By nature, the mind is restless and does not let you experience complete silence. The mind is always in communication with the other parts in your body. There you may verbally silence it for a short time, but not totally. Further, when it is completely at rest, you may fall asleep.
Despite such problems, you can practice mental silence by developing self-awareness and knowing how thoughts arise, and what triggers different mental and emotional responses in you. You can do it by mindfully paying attention to the world and the events around you or prolonging the silence between your thoughts. You have to practice these techniques with detachment and without becoming emotionally involved with what you observe. When you practice mindfulness with detachment, you will not let your emotions disturb your peace. You become a pure observer or a passive witness, without being affected by what you perceive.
Connecting to the hidden silence
There are some advanced ways to practice silence. It is done by discerning the silence that is inherent in you and around you, and connecting to it. If you are observant, you will realize that the world may be noisier, but behind that noise there is the continuous presence of silence. Silence is present everywhere, and hidden in everything. It pervades our minds and bodies and our whole consciousness. We do not notice it when we are lost in the din of life or become too busy to even know our true thoughts and feelings. Noise is temporary and intermittent, while silence is universal and eternal.
To discern it, you just need an observant and silent mind. Once you find it, you can always connect to it, wherever you are and experience peace and solace. Spiritual practice is all about finding the deeper silence or tranquility, which is hidden in all, beyond the noise and disturbances of our own minds and the world. Astronauts who go into the outer space or walk in the space experience it. They know that the interstellar space is frighteningly silent, and whoever enters in that vast silence feels very lonely and lost.
Finally, let us not forget that silence is not a substitute for good conversation or effective communication. When you need to speak, you have to speak. It is important for your survival, success and fulfillment. We are not born to be silent but to express our deepest thoughts and give shape to our deepest yearnings. We should seek silence for respite or to enhance our perceptual and cognitive abilities. Sometimes, it may be better to shout rather than stay silent. For example, if you are in physical danger, whether you want to make noise or remain silent depends upon circumstances. It is where your judgment and discernment determine your choices and actions.
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