In the modern world we are afraid of silence, audible silence, if silence can be called audible, and the silence of the mind. We crowd every spare moment with noise and distraction, it is now mobiles phones, was once the TV, before that the radio. In my therapeutic work, my clients feel the peace of not having to talk, they do not have to disgorge their innermost feelings, they can relax and absorb and within that process I make space for silence. When training my students, the thing they struggle with most are those points of silence, a minute can seem like an hour, and we sit with the silence. I watch them wriggle in their chair, look again and again at their watch as they allow the silence to pass, desperate to fill it.
The most troubling thing that all clients report is that constant voice in their head, the digital self that has to provide a constant narrative to all they are doing and the activity of the world around them. They feel no peace, a constant battle rages with that inner voice spouting its opinions and advice. I use metaphors like turning the volume down, changing the channel of the television to let them know they have a choice. That choice begins by quietening down in the external world, moving away from the need for constant chatter to fill the silence. We might see a couple in a restaurant who have been together for many years, and they are not speaking to each-other, we perhaps might think they are bored or have nothing left to say, but maybe we can consider they are at peace with each-other and do not have to fill the space with chatter.
Peace of mind is what everyone ultimately craves, we cannot find peace in noise, external or internal, so perhaps we can begin to experiment with a time of silence, even agreeing when in company that there will be moments of silence, that inner silence will become more attainable for you, if you can just sit with the moment. I had a period in my life when I could not see to read or write for a while, the great challenge for me was that it limited my activity, sometimes I had to accept I would just have to sit with me, myself, undistracted. It began a journey of getting to know myself and managing my thoughts, as I sat in a waiting room at the hospital, unable to pick up a magazine and read, unable to send messages on my phone or open an app, it began my quest for acceptance of what is. I noticed the inner commentary when I looked at a beautiful view instead of just enjoying it. We hold a good moment in our memory so much more clearly if we remove the mental chatter, a moment that can then sustain us when life sends its challenges. You do not have to be living in a monastery or be a guru meditating at the top of a mountain to begin to attain silence, to appreciate silence. If you have not done so yet, take your first tentative steps into a quieter space, in the outer world and your inner world too, it is my prescription to treat the toxicity of the modern stressful, fast paced world.