The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides~Artur Schnabel
Shhh. Do you hear that? No? Oh, that’s because it’s just silence and the stillness of the moment.
Isn’t it beautiful? No? It makes you uncomfortable? You want the television or radio playing?
Just turn it all off and listen for a minute. Silence.
It has been said that silence is golden.
Why, then, do so many of us feel like we must fill every empty space with noise?
You get in the car and turn on the radio. You walk into the house after work and turn on the television. You sit with a group of people and nervously find anything to discuss. Everywhere you go, there you are, and that is possibly why you are determined to keep creating noise because without the noise you only have silence, and silence leaves you alone with yourself and your thoughts. Being alone with our thoughts is sometimes more togetherness than we want to handle.
Right about now you might be thinking “Susan, if you’re going to talk about finding time to be quiet, contemplative, or meditative, that’s just too girly/new agey/out there for me.” If you knew, though, that embracing silence during the day could help you sleep better at night, would you consider making silence your friend? If I tell you that studies have proven that creating space for quiet at the office could result in more productive employees, would you redesign things? What if inviting silence into your day meant that you could enjoy being more creative, or that you would be guaranteed a bigger brain, would that be enough to convince you try to enjoy silence? Maybe even now, you’ll turn your phone to silent, turn off the television, and enjoy the quiet as you continue reading.
Musicians know the power of silence, and they call it a rest.
People who work out with weights know that for greater gains, they must rest between workouts.
People who work manual labor understand the necessity of resting in order to not wear themselves out before the job is finished.
My eye doctor reminds me of the importance of taking breaks from looking at the computer screen when I’m writing. Even bread has to rest before it can rise.
There is nothing new or out there about needing silence, you see.
Have a favorite song? Notice how it takes a break in spots, much like we pause in our speech. We rarely think of silence in music, since it’s the tune that we hum, but it is the silence that is so powerful. Jennifer Cooreman, in The Power of Rest, wrote “The most skillful composers infuse their music with silence and rely on rests between notes to emphasize and strengthen their melodies. Without enough silence between the noise, even the most beautiful music is transformed into a disorganized cacophony.” Silence in music is intentional and powerful, just like it can be for people.
A student at West Point remarked that he found time for quiet as he sat in his car waiting for it to warm up. He had found value in having just a few minutes to collect himself and focus on nothing. He was surprised at how it helped the rest of his day seem not so harried and how he could take himself back to that moment when things did start to feel crazy.
Life is busy, and so many things call for our attention, so how do we find time for intentional quiet? Some people find time early in the morning , while other people like taking time late at night, after everything is settled down for the night, to carve out a few minutes of quiet. Even right now, just turning off the things that make noise, silencing your phone, and sitting with your thoughts can be very healing and reinvigorating. Maybe you would enjoy going for a walk without a phone or walking partner and just enjoy the silence of nature. Wanting to grow your brain? Walking for 40 minutes three times a week is what seems to make the difference, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Technology provides non-stop noise, as do most classrooms and offices, and a minute or two of silence has proven to be very restorative in the day of students and employees given this opportunity to just be quietly. The Promega company provides “third spaces” to their employees so they can take time for solitude and meditation during their day. The silence has been intentional and had great results. Productivity has gone up as they’ve allowed and encouraged times of silence for their employees.
As I enjoy sitting in the quiet, I hear water in the little fountain splashing, the birds talking to each other outside the window, the air conditioning turn on, and the phone beep that a text message has arrived. Back to reality I go, with email, phone calls, and meetings, but now with an awareness that at any time I can silence the electronics, close the door, and just be in the silence to reconnect with myself and disconnect from everything that otherwise distracts me.
“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson