One of our greatest fears is silence.
We run from it: in our lounge-rooms, in our cars, in our workplaces, in our conversations.
In every place, you will notice our habit of drowning out the dreaded silence with noise and stimulation.
It’s like the grim reaper or a dark omen that follows us around eternally.
Many of us don’t realize it.
Many of us live under a veil of oblivion, not realizing how afraid we are to be in silence and stillness with ourselves.
We will turn up our stereos. We’ll turn on our music or phones. We’ll turn on the radio or the TV.
We will find anything to fill that void of emptiness.
And constantly, we’ll pollute ourselves with noise and stimulants, that numb our minds so that we live our worlds in a thoughtless dream-like state.
Silence makes us uncomfortable.
We may even argue that it bores us to embrace that silence. But what really bothers us is ourselves: we don’t know what to do with ourselves, or what to think, or even who we are.
Eventually, we find that it’s not the silence we’re uncomfortable with, but ourselves.
On an Island, Engulfed in Deafening Silence
I discovered this unnerving reality about silence recently on a visit I made to a small island in the Indian Ocean.
The island had no allowance for cars, only bikes, and has a very small population. Many parts were deserted, and it was in the middle of that island near a salt lake that I sat and let myself listen to nothing.
There was literally not one sound – everything was as still as death – not one car, or person, or slight noise from an animal, for many minutes.
I was suddenly engulfed by this silence, it was like falling through an abyss. I struggled to cling to something, to find some kind of sound to distract myself. The depth of the silence was both unnerving and bewildering.
We rarely get to experience complete silence, and when we do we become uneasy and obsessive to distract our minds – like I did. Suddenly I felt very alone in the middle of that island.
When we hear nothing our minds are stilled, and because we are used to so much stimulation from the outside world, we become spooked.
We’ve stepped into alien territory, one where we don’t know how to operate. It’s as though our minds have stomachs, and when all the greasy clutter is emptied, we starve.
The Healing Simplicity of Silence
Once I sat on that island for a few minutes, and the shock of such heavy silence subsided, I began feeling light.
The silence helped to unburden, pacify and soothe me like nothing else could. Once I embraced that deafening silence my mind became open to meaningful thought.
I became introspective and inquisitive, wondering amongst many things why silence is so avoided.
The solitude experienced in silence is one of the most natural and simple, yet frequently avoided pathways to personal growth.
Just think about the time at night before you go to sleep. You’re in your bed, lying in the darkness, the stillness and the silence and many thoughts come to you from the day. You may even realize that you’re the most thoughtful and reflective at this time.
But why? Because you’re left with yourself, in the silence. There are no stimulations to distract you.
The silence stills you.
It allows you to question yourself and those around you. It provides a pathway towards mindfulness, and when embraced allows us to internally evolve – a deepened, meaningful state of existence.
The most important thing to realize is that silence is so deafening to us because in it we are left aware of all our faults, all our insecurities, all our problems.
When we become mindful of these and are left to face them by ourselves with no distractions, we want to escape.
We want to avoid the one thing that helps to unite us with our present reality: silence.
But running away and refusing to face and embrace silence leaves us stagnant and unchanging.
Our realities are still lurking beneath the surface.
Our issues never go challenged and we never change.
When we embrace silence and push past its deafening, unsettling strength we learn.
When we have the courage to allow silence to consume us, and for our minds to open and think, we grow.
So the next time you’re faced with complete silence try experimenting with what it would be like to let it speak. You may be bewildered. And like me, you may even experience a fragment of its healing beauty.
What’s your experience and relationship like with silence? I’d love to hear below!
It only just now occured to me that we do everything in our power to silence the counsciousness- by running away from silence. When you watch a movie- you are not aware of watching the mvie, you are immersed in another world. Same goes for comedy, concerts, good CDs… entartainment, generally. On one hand- I think this is how you can tell if it’s good or not- if counsciousness comes back half way through- it’s not that good. But reading a very good book… you disappear, don’t you? You loose yourself in a world that does not exist… and it is fine- as long as this is not something you are doing 24/7. And I kind of think we do. And the very weird thing is… counsciousness is the only REAL thing that is out there. We decide to ignore it, even though quite possibly it has ALL the answers we- apparently- seek? I spent last half a year researching a lot about cousciousness. I used to be a singer as well and i was always amazed by that one moment during a performance when a singer looses itself. You are no longer self aware- you just… it happens, alsmot… Read more »
I love silence, my son is always asking me why it’s so quiet in the house and why i don’t put on the radio or something. But i love silence, sometimes the radio and tv can drive me nuts. I have to turn down the volume. I even tell the tv to to STFU when when i turn it off. LOL
I love the silence. Its really interesting to see how my friends behave when there is silence, its taken as a void that must be filled, no matter what fills the void, usually bullshit haha. Basking in the silence seems strange to people who see it as something that needs to be filled in.
For me, silence is like a test, a person who can’t stay in silence alone, isn’t interesting opponent in any discussion, that means he/she can only consumer, not produce. Silence is really pure beauty, thanks for the post.
Silence is beautiful to me… but I don’t give myself enough time to enjoy it as I should. Everyone around me seems to be obsessed with noise, be it music and ipods, TV and movies or relentless chatter.
I’ve occasionally enjoy just sitting by myself in my room or in the park just letting my brain sink into the silence… it’s actually really soothing and its a great way to relax my frazzled nerves and anxiety. Not to mention my mind can wander to some unexpected and funny places during these moments!
I’m in my last year of my undergraduate studies and I’m finding it harder and harder to nab that free time for quiet reflection, there always seems to be something that needs done!
I should mention I’m really not much of a talker, I’m far more of a listener so I’d say that silence and quiet is a big part of my nature. My family seem to think my quiet moments are a bit odd though. :(
When I am with another person there tends to be a lot of awkwardness leading to silence. I don’t like it and I feel that I am forced to say something to break it. Is this because as I said I am uncomfortable with myself? I don’t really understand because I spend lots of time by myself and the quiet doesn’t bother me at all but as soon as I am with another person, it gets really awkward and I want to initiate conversation…
This article really puzzles me. I don’t understand. Yes I know people who dislike silence but I also know many that appreciate it, some – like myself – greatly! The people I konw who actively seek to avoid it are, in my world, a minority.