Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Art of Silence

Have you ever sat on a bus or train and been bombarded with noise? Of course you have. Whether it was riding the bus to school as a little tyke or riding the train on a daily commute to work, everyone has ridden on a noisy public transportation vehicle. Why all the noise? I have yet to ride anywhere on public transportation and have complete silence on the trip. There is always someone on a cell phone talking way too loud about their drunken escapades the previous night or weekend or there is a friendly businessman who feels the need to talk about sports or the news to the construction worker next to him. Then there is the high school or college student who has the latest and greatest ipod blaring some independent musician through a set of ear-buds while they text everyone the know about their weekend plans.

What is it about having our ear drums vibrated to no end? Why do some crave noise? I think we often create noise because we are afraid of being alone with our thoughts. This fear might arise from some dark secret that we are holding on to or it might be that we've never truly experienced our minds and we are afraid of what we might find. DON'T BE AFRAID! Sorry for yelling. I am of the opinion that great thinkers are all around us they just do not realize it yet. The next Shakespeare, Jung, Freud, Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi, or St. Augustine could be sitting next to you on that train.

People are unaware of their inner thoughts. We like to be entertained, we like to be distracted. We do not want to have to think about and understand our lives or who we are. It it much easier to be distracted throughout our entire lives. It is hard to think about one's mistakes or one's shortcomings. It can even be painful. On the other hand it can be enlightening and productive to ponder one's strengths and abilities. When looking inward you can see what needs to be fixed and reflect on what you can do with your strengths and abilities. In order to look inward we need to be silent. We need to silence our crazy brains and the outside world and look inside. When we do that we might find that we have profound thoughts or that the thoughts we have been having are silly.
"In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness." - Gandhi
Sometimes just thinking about nothing is productive. Give your mind a rest. Sit in silence. Block out the world and its distractions. Find a quiet corner or a park and sit for 5 minutes and think about nothing. Sounds hard doesn't it? It can be. It takes practice to just let your mind rest. Try this: sit comfortably (in your car, in a chair, on the couch, on the floor, wherever) just don't sit somewhere you will fall asleep. Close your eyes and stare at a spot between your eyebrows about 8 inches out. Don't cross your eyes. Then take 3 deep breaths and think softly to yourself "in" "out". Just think about your breathing nothing else. Your mind will wander again but when it does just bring it back in and take 3 more breaths. Just notice how you feel, notice the movement of thoughts you have. Our brains are remarkable but also remarkably random. We have an enormous amount of thoughts in a day. Take 5 minutes to relax and breathe. Do that exercise when you feel stressed before a meeting or an exam. It will help calm you down.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! I like what you said about being afraid of silence. I think that is true because we are so used to having noise around us all of the time. So when we dont have noise, we freak out....because something is not right, something is missing.

    I think of sculpting, sculpting at its core is removing what is there to create the art that is in the object. Sculptors shape and form and rearrange, but at the most basic level they take away. And there is an extraordinary, beautiful art to knowing what to take away. May we learn to see the art in taking away the noise and embrace the art of silence.

    Great thought.