The rest is … silence

There’s a very important talent, a discipline, that is almost totally ignored these days: Silence and solitude.

We’re talkers. We speak, argue, discuss, put forth. We seem to express ourselves mostly by what we do and say, and we measure others by the same yardstick. But there is a value in silence and solitude that I think we’re forgetting. Being alone with your own thoughts allows you to learn something about yourself and your current situation that you might miss if you’re always talking and doing.

I hade the privilege of trying 48 hours of silence last year, and it was a beatiful and terrifying experience. Two days with no TV, nothing to read, noone to talk to, no phones, no internet, no nothing. Or actually nothing but nothing. Two days with plenty of time to slow down and discover what went on inside my head.

At first it was scary. I was annoyed and bored out of my skull. On the other hand, I also sat in a chair, looking out a window, seeing the lanscape go dark over a period of an hour with a blanket over my legs and a warm cup of tea. I’ve never done that before.

What I found was that the first day my mind was very hectic. My thoughts were all over the place. My job, my future, my past, things and people that bug me. And then I seemd to slow down, and I started to enjoy myself. I lay on a rock looking into the sky for an hour. I walked in the woods for another hour. Built a small dam in a brook. It was less about doing and more about being.

And I came to realize, that it wasn’t the “forced” inactivity that made my mind race. That’s how my mind usually is! Only normally I’m so distracted by work and deadlines and TV that I don’t notice it. Take the distractions away, and suddenly you realize how uncomfortable that is.

Susan Scott takes time off every year for solitude, and she finds that “It seems that on day three my life automatically properly re-prioritizes itself. It isn’t necessary to go to Switzerland. It isn’t necessary to go anywhere. Except inside. What is necessary is to learn how to keep yourself company.”.

So try it. Be with yourself and nature for some time, without distractions.

I found some interesting (and highly varied) stuff on silence on the net:
A study of the value of silence in the classroom:
The Tyranny of Talk: The Multiple Functions of Silence in Teaching and Learning

A christian perspective on silence. Silence has always been an important part of the spiritual disciplines and of religious practice.
Silence and Solitude . . . “For The Purpose Of Godliness”

A student takes a vacation in a convent:
Solidarity Sister: Anne has big J-term fun with those wacky nuns

The artistic view:
Learning silence

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