The Power of Silence
The joy of stillness
At the beginning of the year I was on meditation retreat. This is an advanced practitioner course that I have been part of for many years, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, and was prepared for a period of silence.
We had a bit of a laugh in some classes about me committing to silence, apparently the general consensus is that I am a bit of a chatter box! This is true, and always has been. My school reports pretty much all said that I would do a lot better if I zipped it. My Dad frequently suggested that I “engaged brain before engaging mouth”, and I have to say my talking has got me into trouble on more than one occasion, I even lost my front teeth by talking at the wrong time ha ha, but that’s a story for another time.
When we were discussing silence in class, there was quite a bit of interest expressed in what was the point of the silence, why did I do it? Fair question, so in my next couple of blogs I’m going to share some yoga wisdom on the benefits of silence, and some of the things silence has taught me.
Over the years I’ve been attending my meditation course, we have enjoyed different lengths of silence, from just a few hours (as was the case this time) to several days of silence (particularly in the early days of the course when myself and my course friends had a lot of chatter to silence!). In all honesty, in the beginning I found the enforced silence very challenging.
I like talking. I’m quite sociable, I’m a teacher so communication is important , and I love to connect with other people. Equally, though, I do appreciate quiet time alone – I’m an only child which means I have grown up with large chunks of time on my own, and I enjoy it. It really surprised me how difficult I found the enforced silence of the retreats. Bizarrely, I felt very lonely even though I was among friends. All kinds of difficult emotions came up, which to be frank I wasn’t that keen to look at or deal with. I know though, that meditation has a way of stirring the pot, bringing up things that we need to let go of and I’m always willing to put in the work, so with the help of my tutors and my yoga, I investigate what comes up, which is what I did here. The first 48 hours were horrid! And then something amazing and totally unexpected happened. Suddenly the heaviness and sadness lifted and I felt totally at peace, comfortable and calm. By the time we finished the silence I really didn’t want to talk!
I had experienced complete contentment. Every cell of my body felt vibrant and full of life. I was more aware of my senses and what was going on around me, I was more focussed on what I wanted to do with my time, and I found that when I did speak, I was choosing my words more carefully. All widely documented benefits of silence.
Over the years, I have learned that talking can be a waste of energy. I’m not perfect though, I type this much easier than I live it! I still like to talk, but I do make to effort to include some silence into every day, usually after my meditation practice or whilst dog walking (my dog is deaf , so I don’t even have to speak to call him to me!). I always return from a period of silence, however short, feeling refreshed and peaceful. Sometimes I find that I have more clarity, the answer to a problem may have well presented itself during the quiet time. Sometimes, I feel very still and contained as if my body is taking some time out to heal, whist other times I feel energised. Whatever the outcome of my silence, it is always ultimately positive (occasionally something comes up that I need to deal with, so might be tricky at the time, but the end result is positive). I also find that in withdrawing from external noise, I can hear my voice within – this is when my body often tells me what I need to do to take care of it.
Why not commit to some silence each week? How about an hour with no TV, phone, social media or talking? Just go about your usual routine, but without sound. Let me know how you get on. Ix