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Making Space for Silence

Making Space for Silence

In our lives of technology, distraction, and immediacy, silence is often lost. Our minds and bodies need some quiet time, some space to rest. Without this, we become burned-out, stressed, and exhausted. But our lives are busy, and we have responsibilities, jobs, and families. How do we daily make room for silence? Here are some suggestions.

Shut off technology. No matter how entertaining the show, educational the podcast, or calming the music, technology is constant white noise. We can’t truly enjoy silence with our devices chattering away in the background! Try shutting them off. Yes, the absence of digital noise might at first stun us, as we have gotten used to technology hovering around like an annoying pet. But until the pet is outside for a while, we can’t truly enjoy the quiet.

Go outside. Nature is our great haven of rest. Where in our days can we pop outside to enjoy the fresh air, take in the view, or go for a brisk walk? I like to take my toddler sons on a nearby bike trail whenever the weather allows. We get exercise, fresh air, and quiet time. Indeed, there’s something about going outside that leaves us refreshed and relaxed when we return to our daily tasks. Maybe we could all take more lunch breaks outside, walk or bike to work, or simply stand in our yards with our morning coffee. Any outside time offers a grand opportunity for quiet.

Eat alone. This is more for those of us who have scheduled meals in busy professional lives. Some of us work 60 to 80 hours a week with busy family lives on top. I understand: There’s not much room for silence! A great option is to take our lunch or coffee break alone. While it’s tempting to work or to hang out with coworkers right through this time, sometimes we need to give our brains rest. Use lunch break to do so. (Bonus points if you can eat outside!)

Single task. Little ordinary tasks are gifts. Doing the dishes, getting the mail, folding laundry, brushing our teeth, or sweeping the floor offer us opportunities to take a break from informational noise and “reset” with a calm, dull activity. Though our minds need this respite, we often try to be “productive” by multitasking or “more fun” by adding music or media. Instead, let’s single task. Let’s focus on the ordinary job at hand—even if we are bored, have a million things to do, or think two minutes of quiet can’t possibly make a difference. Sometimes, all the silence I have in my day is brushing my teeth after the boys are in bed. I’m going to savor it!

Create dedicated quiet time. We can study our days for patterns and pick out opportunities for mental rest. As in the great Christian tradition of Sunday rest, we can schedule dedicated silence, and we can even plan where we spend this time. We have been designed to flourish with regular rest time every week. Let’s get back to it! Yes, most of us can’t spend a whole day in silence, but we can get creative with what we can do instead. Avoiding unnecessary work is traditional; we could also avoid unnecessary phone calls, television, or internet use.

Pick up a silent activity. I personally do very well with some silence in my day, but I do not do well with idleness. I simply have to do something with my hands in order to relax! We don’t have to sit completely still to enjoy silence, as we can always choose activities that don’t involve noise. For example, I love drawing, painting, and crocheting. Walking, gardening, hiking, praying, and biking are other popular options. Let’s think about our hobbies and interests, considering whether these can be pursued in quiet ways.

Fight distractions. When we are intentionally resting or being silent, our minds will inevitably get distracted. Change, even restful change, isn’t easy! To solve this, try to consistently keep a “brain dump” handy. This can be a handwritten list, a note on your phone, or whatever works for you. There, write down anything that’s on your mind, in your to-do list, or just randomly jumping through your head. Then you can settle into quiet time without mulling on what you have to remember for later. (Of course, if anything seriously pressing occurs to you during quiet time, let yourself jot it down. We all know the difference between a distraction and a responsibility!)

The more familiar we become with quiet, the less distracted we will feel and the more benefits we will reap. Learning to regularly calm our minds and bodies will help us to clear our heads, calm our stress, and focus our attention. Silence in our lives will lead to peace and clarity—don’t let our modern culture of noise take that away.

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  • Avatar
    Kalikiano Kalei
    September 29, 2023, 12:16 pm

    This piece resonates…oh, how it resonates (harmonically)! In modern America, just as 'Big is better' Has become a universal American creedo, so too is 'Louder is power!' Sadly, in a consumer nation now completely subsumed by corporate profiteering into an unthoughtful mass, through adroit manipulation of marketing (advertising) and pandering to base, 'lowest common denominator' attitudes, peacefulness is now officially on the 'Endangered qualities' list.

    I have always, throughout my life, prized and worshipped the natural, healing silence of nature. Perhaps this began when I was a small child, raised by an academic mother whose own mother was a classical musician and pianist. We spent summers at Grandmum’s home and consequently, I early-on developed an appreciation for several aspects of 'Evil White European culture', namely traditional literature and classical music. In both, quietude and peaceful reflection play a critical role in understanding and appreciation of these mediums.

    Both classical literature and ancient music have been heavily influenced by the natural rhythms and subtleties of the natural world we live in, throughout human history, and they both instill in us crucial awarenesses of our dual physical and spiritual worlds. Today, music has degenerated so radically that it is little more than an annoying beat with a sprinkling of random, raw, often overtly scatological words (e.g. hip-hop, rap and that sort of trash that puerile personalities think is so radically cool!) tossed into the mix. Classic anything is deemed lame by youths, principally because we have ceeded 'control' of American culture to immature, half-baked youths who chase endlessly after the sort of drug-augmented, frenzied 'action' Kerouac so famously wrote about, back in the 50s. And predictably, Philistinely opportunistic corporations chase after this segment of our population for the billions of dollars of discretionary income they spend on this chase after narcissistic titillation.

    Anyone who has studied the science of engineering can quickly affirm that an engineer regards noise (and noise) as a flaw that is due to imperfectly designed and/or produced interactions of mechanical systems. If cars, for example, were sold strictly on the basis of efficient operation, they would be utterly noiseless and quieter than a gentle ocean zephyr. But because puerile youthfulness regards 'loudness' in a weaponised sense (as a manifestation of power, real or allegorical), cars are deliberately made to be as noisy and obnoxious as possible in the hands of youthful (and 'arrested adolescent') owners (laws and regulations be damned).

    Needlessly noisy leaf blowers come to mind immediately as a chief disruptor of our domestic quietude, but they are merely one objectionable dynamic among many hundreds.

    It is all well and good to suggest a quiet walk in nature to restore a sense of mindfulness and personal harmony, but in a world gone mad with needless and unrelenting background levels of excessive, random noise, such bucolic refuges are themselves becoming increasingly scarce and hard to access in our congested urban areas. I have recently witnessed more and more individuals walking around wearing sound dampening devices, noise-attenuating earphones and other means of blotting some of this nonstop cacophony out, as overt a sign of protest as any conceivable! Homicidal battery has even been committed against noisemakers (e.g. leaf blowers) by outraged seekers after quietude! Where does it end, given the typical bureaucratic civic disregard for such degradations of our quality of life?

    Older individuals with various kinds of hearing frequency losses have a particularly difficult time dealing with excessive noise levels in their vicinity, especially if they use hearing aid devices. But when did youths every regard elders with any vestige of respect?

    A number of excellent and highly illuminating books have been written about the marvels of silence and quietude as healing forces in our machine-mad America, such as Lisa Kimberley's excellent 'THE QUIET INTROVERT', Graham Turner's 'THE POWER OF SILENCE', Bierke Vanderkerchove's inspiring 'THE TASTE OF SILENCE' and dozens more. If you, like I, am vastly unset by the tyranny of annoying, aggravating noise in our America, I highly suggest that you try one of more of these books!

    Thanks, Cadence, for reaffirming our awareness of the marvelous, healing balm that is quietude and natural peacefulness!

    REPLY
  • Avatar
    Allen Roth
    December 2, 2023, 7:13 pm

    We have the power to shut out the insanity of the world, we need to use it.

    REPLY

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