The Value of Silence

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing 

and rightdoing there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

 

When the soul lies down in that grass

the world is too full to talk about.” 

― Rumi

We live in a world of noise, of constant chatter. Everyone has something to say and everyone wants to be heard. If you were to stand in a crowded market and everyone talked at the same time, would you be able to hear anything that made sense? But, if you were silent and you tried to listen, you might catch glimpses of conversations, meaningful words that convey someone’s thoughts and feelings. Silence is probably the most underrated thing in our world. We confuse silence with lack of voice. We think being silent is the same as not speaking up. But that’s not the case. Silence, in the right context, is more powerful than the loudest voice.

 

Image of a man walking in silence along a lake and mountains
© Srividya Sridharan

 

When we shout at someone with anger asking them to “Shut Up”, what we are really saying is that we don’t feel heard and we just want that person to listen. Listening requires silence.

When we say we want some peace and quiet, all we want is some space to ourselves so we can shut out all outside noise and listen to the inner voice within that tells us what to do.

We feel peaceful listening to waves or watching the sunrise because those are the times we are quiet and we hear nature at its best. We lose the sense of “I” and become a part of nature and we communicate with it in silence.

When we sit in a corner by ourselves and read a book, we see other worlds and other lives. We give ourselves the chance to see beyond ourselves and silence is the only way to immerse ourselves completely in that experience.

When we are silent, we listen. When we listen, we understand. Understanding leads to acceptance.

 

 “Who tells a finer tale than any of us. Silence does.”

— Isak Dinesen

There is a reason why some of the best writers and artists in the world work in silence. If we are too busy listening to all the voices around us, how can we hear the voice within, the muse that prompts us to write, paint, sculpt or sing? When we peep into the creative pool within, silence eliminates the ripples and we get to see our clear reflection, our true self, which gets lost in the endless chaos that surrounds our everyday life.

Beliefs are important. But when we refuse to be silent for a while and listen to other perspectives, we put ourselves in a cage of rigid beliefs and deny ourselves the freedom to grow and learn, to know ourselves and become better people.

 

“We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.” 

― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

The true measure of a relationship between two people is not how much they can talk. It is how long they can sit in comfortable silence, without feeling the need to use words to communicate their love and understanding.

When someone is silent while we throw our words at them, we usually assume that they do not care or do not want to talk to us. Their silence might just be their way of trying to understand how they feel or an attempt to stop themselves from saying something that might hurt our feelings.

Silence does not mean we don’t speak up for causes or beliefs that deserve a voice. Silence is not submission and it’s certainly not a weakness. It’s about listening, and expanding our minds and keeping it open. It’s about making space for other voices that help us learn and understand our world and ourselves better.

What does silence mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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