Exercising Silence

The world is a noisy place. There are very few places you can go without being bombarded by notification dings, the humming of vehicles, people scurrying about heading nowhere. Maybe I should amend that statement. The part of the world I live in is a noisy place; Los Angeles. One of the reasons I loved being in a four stop-light town in Iowa (shout out Grinnell College) for undergrad was the ability to fall in love with silence.

I remember how fascinated I was with the ability to access silence. If I needed alone time or time away from others, I simply took a walk into a field, towards nowhere, only to return at my discretion. Being back in Los Angeles, living in a home with my wife and three boys, silence can be hard to come by. Add in the fact that my work requires conversation, coaching, and my own thoughts to run wild from one edge of a page to the other margin; silence is a necessity for my sanity.

I highly value silence. It allows for introspective reflection but it also breeds a level of communication unparalleled when there is the addition of another soul. Both require cultivation of the skill to be able to access the beauty of it all.

I don’t get to take a walk in a field anymore to seek silence and solitude. Yes, there are areas near my home that could possibly give me a glimpse of the perfection of silence, but it is rare. My morning meditation, before everyone is awake, is where I began to reconnect with the silence I so desire and enjoy. Sitting, nothing but my thoughts, no other noise besides the birds chirping, I find bliss. It is so early in the morning (4:45a.m.) that it seems I have the whole world to myself.

That practice built a foundation to be able to find silence at any point, anywhere. Continued practice of sitting in silence has opened my senses and ability to access it inside a dingy pool hall where the eight ball clanks against the others, headed towards the pocket before it’s time and all scream through the smoke-filled air in an attempt to derail its path. If I need a moment, I simply go inward.

As I mentioned, you can also do this with another soul, as one. It is a fascinating exercise that is worth ten minutes of your time. I am not sure if there is a name for it but I know it has been taught in mediation circles, college classrooms, marriage and family therapy, counseling, writing classes, and many other venues that bring about change. I like to call the exercise, “Listen to Me, I Hear You.”

This doesn’t have to be done if you have some issue in your life or with a spouse. This can be done when things are great. It can enhance your relationship with the other and your relationship to the power of silence.

Sit comfortably in front of your silence partner. Get close, to where you are almost touching knees. A variation I like, sometimes, is to put your hands up, palms facing the other person, as they do the same and bring palms together with the other’s palms, as close as possible without touching (the reason I don’t always like this variation is if you are doing this exercise for longer than five minutes, you began to lose focus on your partner and the silence and devote more of it to your tiring arms).

Then simply stare into the eyes of the other person. That’s it. You can blink, you can scratch, smile, or laugh but try to give it a gentle seriousness. What I have seen and experienced most is… crying. Tears of both elation and soulful destruction. Tears of baring one’s soul and tears of unleashing years of repressed energy and resentment. Try it for five minutes. If beneficial, slowly increase the duration over time. I have never done it for more than 10 minutes, also never needed more time than that. It is a game changer.

I feel a bit awkward writing about silence. Seems counter-intuitive and as much as I think it would have been cool to title an article “The Power of Silence,” and leave the text blank (actually I think that would have been really cool), I am not sure if others would have understood what I was trying to convey. If you’re willing, give silence a chance. It opens corridors of communication, where you learn more about yourself and others. Hopefully, you take a minute after reading this to sit in your essence. I shall help by leaving this post, in a literary moment of awkward silence…