are you getting enough silence?

Posted on September 20th, 2012

Today, just this, a quote regular reader (and now e-friend) Ian sent to me last week.

Photo by Brian Oldham

“See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”  – Mother Teresa

I sat on it a few days. And while I was in Provence, on my own for a few days again, I churned on it. And I realised just how right it is.

When I was in Iceland I was struck by how cafes and shops are silent. I pointed it out to a few people. They hadn’t noticed it. But then realised how nice it was when they did.

Over the past four months traveling, some of my favourite moments have been spent sitting in a quiet church, before or after the tourists visit. Smokey, velvety, cool silence.

It’s a thyroid thing. Got an autoimmune disease? Silence is your salve.

I don’t exercise with an ipod. When I eat alone or sit in a park alone, I don’t plug in.

I’ve realised silence gives space for everything else to come forward. Just like we close our eyes when we want to smell something better. It’s the forum for the magic to unfurl. And, yes, it’s the forum for our hearts to truly see other souls. When you can see, you can reach out and touch.

Are you getting enough silence? Wish to share some imaginative ways to get it in this noisy world. I’d love some ideas…

 

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  • http://www.sparrowandsea.com Jess @ Sparow + Sea

    I particularly don’t understand people who wake up and first thing in the morning feel the need to crowd out the silence by watching morning TV or listening to morning radio. I feel so especially porous in the mornings – like I am super susceptible to other people’s energies and noise. So listening to that sort of background-media-noise in the morning seems so especially disturbing-of-the-peace to me.

    I also don’t understand how for so many people, listening to the radio in the car is their default travel mode. Driving in silence can be so peaceful…

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    Tim Reply:

    Agree Jess,

    And it’s not only the fact of having the tv or radio on for the noise, it’s the content of the noise! My thing’s been the radio, moving from mainstream “Breakfast” programs that are so base, to the ABC thinking it would be more cerebral. Mmm, maybe a tad, but in no way a peaceful positive way to start the day.

    Silence has been fine for awhile in the morning and living by myself I have plenty of it. Though it would be nice to wake up to something that is peaceful, positive and uplifting for those certain days when needed :) Maybe “Sounds of the Forest”? I’m sure someone out there has better suggestions?

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  • Carly

    If you can bring yourself to indulge your inner consumer – get your hands on a pair of Bose Quiet Comfort headphones (noise cancelling). They’re a little pocket of peace when you just want some quiet time but have to be in the ‘humdrum’. Heaven for flights or trips on public transport, or noisy neighbours! Music/sounds quality from them is also great.

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  • Jane

    I concur regarding the TV and radio standard procedure on waking/ coming home… I find it jarring and invasive, like my frequency isn’t tuned in… white noise.

    It’s delightful to observe silence and take in the sounds that are provided by mother nature, the birds, animals waking, the little sounds of other people readying themselves for the day, or winding down. If feels more connected.

    Then there’s dead silence… sometimes a scary place, but when let pervade something quite magical can happen.

    Thanks Sarah, enjoyed this reflection today :)

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  • Rose

    I too love little bouts of silence and aim for some each day. i too am one thst will turn the car radio off for some soul soothing quite. while in bali recently a few people made comment about their day of silence. i think its for their new year but there is little activity; no work, no driving, no tv, no pc etc. what a great concept i thought. t too would welcome the peace and a chance to connect with my inside peeps as your friend Eugene once said.

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    Rose Reply:

    Oh ps, i think its a vata thing too!

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    very vata!

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  • http://svasti.wordpress.com Svasti

    Could not agree more! Both from an AI perspective AND as a yoga student and teacher.

    Only recently I took myself off and away for a solo writing and yoga retreat in the middle of nowhere. Silence, when given a chance… speaks to us. Tells us things we need to hear. This post: An Ode To Snake Gully, is all about what a hike in nature shared with me. :)

    I wrote several posts about my time away – they started out as diary notes really – and took lots of pictures. When I wasn’t writing or yoga-ing or eating or sleeping or walking in nature. While away I just felt really, really well.

    Then I came back to “normal” life with all of its noise and stress and busy-ness and crashed a little. Unsurprising, really.

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  • Mia

    Silence and sitting still – we need more of both these days!
    M x

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  • http://www.thewholekitchen.com Hannah

    Perfect timing. I need that quote from Mother Teresa. Great post.

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  • http://happytreepose.com Emily

    Recently I’ve been turning the radio off in the car. Small thing, but this little dose of silence really helps!

    I also love going up to a cemetery near me, might sound spooky but its incredibly peaceful to simply stroll around the grounds when the sun is shining and all you can hear are the birds and occasional rustle of grass.

    Silence is golden indeed.

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    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    I know what you mean about cemeteries, I seek them out wherever I travel. I love the meditative atmosphere, the beautiful declarations of love and connection to family. I don’t find them spooky at all.

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  • JaneK

    I am a mum of teens and wife to a news junkie. I am also an only child addicted to books and figure if something big is happening in the world someone will tell me. I love to write creatively. I CRAVE silence.

    So needless to say, I drag myself out of bed despite not being a morning person and enjoy the quiet. I also have to remove myself from the noise frequently and go to the beach or the bush.

    At work I have to take myself outside to concentrate…I think these practices and those mentioned already are also really good ways of setting boundaries for ourselves and valuing what is good for the soul.

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  • Claire

    I went on a silent retreat 10 years ago. 7 days of silence was bliss – completely reconnected to my higherself. I LOVE silence and treasure it whenever I can. Great post Sarah xx

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  • http://www.foxyandfabulous.com Louise @ Foxy and Fabulous

    As someone who has lived alone for many years, more recently with 2 dogs for company, we all love our silence. I actually struggle in noisy cafes, bars, restaurants and people’s rowdy homes and can’t wait to get back to my own silence. I used to feel odd about shunning noise, but now my silence is badass.

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  • Tess

    I need lots of silence as well in a day, or I start to feel disconnected from myself.

    What I find interesting though is what sounds I am OK with and which I’m not. Generally I am fine with noise in cafes etc, don’t mind it when the kids have music on (as long as it’s not deafening) and I used to teach in a primary school – lots of noise going on there!

    But TV noise really bothers me as do phone conversations on the train etc. I think it’s when there’s a specific conversation or interaction going on – my brain joins in- working to make sense of it, judging, and analysing etc. Or sometimes it’s a song that seems to demand an emotional reaction.

    Meditation is helping me sit with all and observe what’s going on but I think I will always need my silences and the mental and emotional space they provide.

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  • Clare

    I believe a lot of people plug in to create a barrier – if you have ear plugs in most people won’t/can’t talk to you. It’s like wearing sunglasses – no eye contact.
    I used to listen to the radio when I caught public transport, and would often get to the end of the journey without realising I hadn’t actually turned the music on :) I actually liked listening to what was going on, or enjoying the silence of a train full of plugged in souls…

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  • Becca Rose

    “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
    Blaise Pascal

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    one of my favourites

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  • Josie

    I’m taking part in a mental health campaign called Zip It and will be donating my voice for 24 hrs on World Mental Health Day (Wed 10 October). Looking forward to some peace and quiet! Check it out here – http://www.zipit.org.au

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Yeah, i read about that one.

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  • Ms Jane

    Ah the serenity x

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  • https://www.facebook.com/NourishHealthWellbeing Jen Davis

    Swimming laps. Heaven.

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    C Reply:

    Absolutely! Hot tip- Fitzroy outdoor pool (heated but one of the coolest in Melbourne) in winter at night. Under the night sky (often a beautiful moon) and often only about 5 people in the whole pool- summer it obviously gets much busier!
    And libraries..I always seem to find myself in them when traveling overseas.

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    leahmarlie Reply:

    And Fitzroy pool first thing on a winter morning – watching the sun rise over the pool – I can only bring myself to swim breast stroke on the lap facing the sun rise so I can see it properly!

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  • http://www.thatspaceinbetween.com Sarah

    I noticed that when I became a parent the silence vanished so I work hard at creating new spaces for it. One of the things I love is driving with my kids without music on – they are the moments when they ask me curly life challenging questions where I can ponder over what they’ve asked and provide answers that help guide them. When I get my two days a week without them I try to start the day with a quiet half hour before starting work. Helps me focus on what I want to achieve – works some days, others I guess I just give in to it.

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  • Jo

    Sarah, thank you so much for this lovely, timely post.
    I think I need to unplug at the moment. It’s so easy to get caught up in life’s whirlwind. Was so good to read this and just stop for a moment and think about it.
    You’re inspirational. Thank you!

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  • Cassie

    I didn’t realize how much I liked silence until I had 3 kids! At 3,4 & 5 years old – boy they are noisy!

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    Cassie Reply:

    Ps:sometimes I wish I could turn their volume off!

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  • http://theyogichousewife.wordpress.com nicola

    I never used to enjoy silence before having kids. Now, when the kids are away or napping there is absolutely nothing better than my quiet serenity. It is bliss.

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  • Anne-Marie

    my husband and I have a bush cabin called ‘the treehouse’. we retreat to it on a regular basis and sometimes don’t talk at all for hours…it is a special place, a sacred retreat, miles from anyone and no-one can find us, no phone, no television, no ipod or ipads…perfect, deep, satisfying, completing silence…for which I am very grateful.

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  • http://Www.bodybusiness.com.au Christine

    Beautiful. Sweet. Silence. Enough said :-)

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  • http://www.joannaroy.com Jo Roy

    Great post again Sarah. I find myself feeling massively overwhelmed by noise. Especially tv and radio. Sometimes I feel like an oddball not wanting to soundtrack my entire life!! Silence is golden.

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  • BecBec

    I love it when a ‘sign’ comes along.

    Your wise words today are EXACTLY what I have been pondering all morning. From the moment I opened my eyes (from being awoken by low flying airplanes on route to Heathrow); hearing the neighbours whilst yoga-ing; the traffic on route to work; the text from my friend asking me to move to beach to be closer to her; the constant chatter from everyone in the office.

    Although I love some action it is so incredibly important to find some calm.

    Thank you. I needed this to re-confirm I need to make some major adjustments in life and search for more silence.

    Oh… but its not just a thyroid thing.

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  • BecBec

    Oh and I think the text from my friend was the third sign that I needed. So much more peaceful by the sea. How I miss it so. Sarah, during your adventures in Europe, if you’re heading to the UK may I recommend a trip to the coasts in Cornwall. There are some incredible coastal walks, beaches and a lovely cafe on the waterfront front in Watergate Bay (pop their for breakfast). Padstow and St Ives are also beautiful (although can be quite busy).
    Enjoy the rest of your travels.

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  • http://www.crackedbetty.com Bec

    Silence is too precious these days to waste so I just embrace it at every opportunity… in the car, when out walking, just sitting in a park and listening to the ambient noise.

    I don’t own a TV by choice, but I always find it hilarious when visitors come over and ask why. (The most common comment is “Don’t you get bored?”).

    I’m so “switched on” during the day that it’s nice to get home of an evening, put on some relaxing music (or not) and cook a simple AI-friendly meal. And if I really want to be entertained, I’ve got a computer, a projector and a big fat white wall ;-)

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  • http://mymezzaluna.com Edwina

    You know, this is something I’ve been thinking about for the longest time since I saw the BBC documentary The Big Silence. Going on a silent retreat is something I would like to do sometime. I also love the stillness of churches. In fact ‘ve come to the conclusion that noise creates confusion and anxiety in our lives…

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  • Liana

    Such a beautiful article Sarah!

    I have been doing a yoga Self Knowledge class over the last month and one of the most important things that has been brought to my attention is that without space and silence, nothing can exist. We exist because of the space around us. Our thoughts exist because of the silence in between. When we are silent and our minds are quiet, we experience our true selves. =)

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  • Angie

    I too love the silence but when out hiking up big hills in HK where I live, I have always needed to listen to music to get me up those hills…until recently. I’m training with a group for a 26k night hike and We have had the good fortune to be able to hit the trails
    Very early in the mornings during the week. I’ve found that because I’m with others I’m less inclined to listen to my music, not because we are chatting as we hike, as we are quite spread out being differing levels of fitness, but more because I am loving the sounds of nature and the silence. And really listening to it. It inspires me to keep moving and stay mindful. In mad busy and very noisy HK it is bliss to be in nature and in the silence.
    Thanks For the post Sarah it made me really think about this.

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  • Marcus

    Hello Sarah!
    I stumbled upon your site by accident. But I came across your AI blog, where in one post you talked about things that work.
    Now Im not really sure how your AI is at the moment, as Im kind of too sleepy to read :P

    But, I want to tell you something about that(and I wasnt sure if I should post there or here, so I chose here!)

    Ive had(!) Sarcoidosis Stage 3(chronic with yearly hospital reservations(is what I like to call it), Some potty related AI and Gastritis.

    Now Sarcoidosis(lungs n eyes) always came when I feared getting thrown out of evening school, and it left everytime I succeeded to the next year after all, aka the fear/worry disappeared. So its been gone for 2+years, even tho its “chronic” according to western medicine.

    Gastritis is mostly gone as well, it made your stomache burn and made my arms/legs feel weak. Later I realized it was me being insecure. It rarely happens nowadays, and last was at a new workplace, so that explains itself.

    I do not take medicine for the 2 diseasese above anymore. As 1 is gone and 1 is very rare.

    Now, the thing I want to actually tell you is.
    I have “healed” myself from the potty related AI, for 3days(woohoo!).
    I do believe that AI’s try to point you in ways, but as Ive come to understand, there are many ways to beat your diseases.
    One day, I forgot to take my medicine(cortisone 5mg). But I forgot that I forgot, so I thought that I took it, until 1am that day.
    I went to the toilet 4 times a day. As usually.
    Normaly if you forget it, you get dizzy, feel sick, feel hot/cold, and have to run to the potty allday.
    Now, I didnt feel _any_ of that, until 1am where I realized I forgot to take my meds.
    And at that point they all came rushing to me.

    So I thought “Why? Why only now? I didnt take cortisone allday, it should have happened troughout the day, not just now when I realize I forgot to take it”.
    I only went to the potty 4 times as well, as if I was on cortisone.
    So I was thinking “What if Im only sick, because people tell me Im sick, what if Im only chronically sick because doctors tell me its chronic, I dont have sarcoidosis anymore so..”

    And voila, the next day I didnt take any meds, and I felt _better_ than ever, I only went to the toilet twice.
    The 2nd day, I didnt take any meds either, I didnt go to the toilet once. And I felt awesome.

    But the 3rd day, I begun having doubts, thinking that cant be possible, theres no explanation in medicine for that blablabla.
    So the next day I was back to where I was a few days ago.

    So you see, I was healthy because I deeply believed I was healthy, but doubts got the better of me.

    I hope this helps you, even if it only helped me for a few days, it at least helped me to lower my cortisone dosage from 5mg to 2.5mg.

    Wish you the best!
    Marcus

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  • Katia

    I had never thought of it that way but am currently blissed out by dear Husband, favorite child and adorable dog being out and I’ve turned everything off and am reading. Totally echo the noise canceling headphones thoughts as well from other posts (no pun intended)… And yes On reflection it is a part of my ‘sanity’ requirement

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  • http://wtmu.blogspot.com Patti

    I don’t have an autoimmune disease, but silence is my salve also. i think everyone can benefit from cool and velvety silence!

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  • seeker

    ah that’s lovely … so soothing to read …

    as a yoga teacher i try to incorporate the philosophy of yoga into my teaching by sending emails to my students on the basic tenets of the philosophy and posting it on my website, (as personally i feel it is more worthwhile to know about the philosophy than to know how to ‘do’ an asana!) and i’ve just this week spoken about pratyahara, the withdrawal of energy from the senses. powerful stuff!
    its so nice to read all these comments, because sometimes i feel so abnormal!! i do also find all these things (tv, radio, media,gossip, advertising etc) intrusive and most of the time mindless and dare i go so far to say offensive!! … but yeah, it’s comforting to know i am not the only one out there!! can you guys make some more noise about it so i can bow to you!! he he! sarah, thanks for posting such worthwhile, noteworthy thoughts …
    and i’m getting those earphones!! yeehah! xo :)

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    Cassie Reply:

    What’s your website? I’d be interested :)

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  • seeker

    ps. a quote from one of my teachers which i love:
    “may we learn to live like the lotus flower, happy in the muddy water

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    Cassie Reply:

    I like that. Thanks :)

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  • Jackie

    Some use noise when they are running away from something and to keep themselves from dealing with their issues. I get very irritable if I don’t get my dose of silence each day. My family now understand that and know when to leave me alone.
    Silence is golden!

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  • Clare Egan

    I just moved back home with my parents and extremely vocal and noisy disabled brother who is only quiet when he is asleep! I have spent the last four months living in a country town where the loudest noises were the deep rumble of the local gold mine underground explosives, a cattle truck passing, or very occasionally the town fire alarm sounding. I very quickly learnt to love the silence, and now that I am home I feel bombarded by the noise!

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  • JoMartin

    Hello Sarah,
    Back from Moustiers..where we had the great pleasure to meet and share our experiences about Nature and beautiful views…allied with crèpes au miel and dried fruit…
    I finally connect with you via your blog and the first topics I read about last night were meditation and silence..and I understand perfectly what you are talking about!
    Being on my own most of the time, I realize that silence, especially when I am outside is a great way to reconstruct and think (meditate?): the way I connect with silence best is when I hike: movement and viewing amplifies the effect of silence, as if it entered my body (and inner self, soul?) better… via my footsoles
    A tip for those of you who happen to come to France for a stay: try the Lozère area: it is one of the less inhabited area, and the energy provided by the granite is a real cure! I stayed there for 4 days in July and I felt reinforced and soothed

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  • http://www.shashenjewels.com eilish bouchier

    Great post. So so spot on.

    I love to visit churches when I go to Europe and I now see for centuries people could go to find some silence from the maddening crowd. People often lived with large families in very small spaces with no room to think or be alone and churches provided this space to escape to and some beautiful spaces too. I cried whenI first visited St Peters in Rome. And as Alain de Boton said when it comes to architecture he’s Catholic:-)

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  • http://www.mindfulinmay.com Elise

    If you’re looking for silence you could join the global mindful in may campaign – a community of meditators making a difference
    http://www.mindfulinmay.com :)

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