We live in a world of perpetual noise from the bird chirping alarm that wakes us up in the morning to the humming of the fan that lulls us to sleep at night. We fill potentially quiet moments with texts to friends. We fill “awkward” silences with empty words. We think of silence as the absence of noise, the absence of life and interaction, but silence has a power and a presence all its own. Our society has conditioned us to fear silence because of its potential and power to transform us. Let it.
1. Connecting to reality.
Have you ever taken a hike or simply walked around town and truly listened to the world around you? Whether that be the leaves rustling underneath your feet, the random fragments of conversations of those passing by, or the distant church bells calling a community to service on a Sunday morning. Most of us put in earbuds or simply tune out the sounds around us because we’re so distracted by our own thoughts. The simple act of quietly noticing the world around can help to ground you in the present moment which is all too often missed because we’re shuffling through our playlist or thinking about the to-do list waiting at home.
2. Thinking profoundly.
On the flip side, silence between people, within conversations or group discussions, can be beneficial to allow people to think more profoundly about an idea or question, to thoughtfully formulate their musings. What if people stopped feeling the need to fill the “awkward” silences during an argument with potentially harmful words? What if professors gave their students a few moments to ponder their question in silence before putting someone on the spot? What if we gave our thoughts a moment to collect before spilling them into a silence that may be necessary or complete on its own? Maybe the world would make a little more sense.
3. Comforting others.
If you’re human and you interact with people, you’ve probably been in a situation where a friend or loved one is going through a hard time and maybe they cry or they tell you about it, but as soon as they’re quiet you say something like “It’s all going to be okay” or try to offer advice or your own personal story of struggle. While we all do this with the best of intentions, we also know from being on the flip side of it that it rarely helps and often feels hollow and insincere. Because we’re so afraid of silence, we often fail to realize that someone’s presence, a listening ear, and the fact that someone cares is comfort in itself and, more often than not, more powerful than any well-intentioned but inevitably empty words.
4. Healing yourself.
In the same way that allowing someone else the space to feel and express themselves can be comforting, allowing yourself that same space to be human can be healing and energizing. Whether you decide to wear a billowy dress and go sit in a meadow of lilacs to meditate or you simply lie down on your bed to relax after a hard day, silence can be a powerful tool to calm your mind and your body. It can simultaneously connect you to the present moment while disconnecting you from your worries, if only for a few peaceful moments.