Silence speaks volumes. Are you listening?

Take time to listen...

Take time to listen…

Sabina Nawaz wrote a post today about setting aside time for silence to allow ideas to emerge and new concepts to form. I don’t think I could agree more. This frenetic pace we’re all on to do more with (seemingly) less time has caused a crises of sorts. If we’re surrounded by even 30 seconds of silence, many of us will reach for our iPhones to check email.

In her post, she talks about coaching executives:

Frequently they tell me about the sacrifices they’ve made for their work: how they’ve slept only three hours the night before, haven’t exercised in months, missed their children’s games. They’re busy because their work is important. They operate under tight timelines and competitive pressures. The stakes are high.

In response, she suggest they try something counter-intuitive: Do less. She recalls John Cage‘s seminal piece 4’33”, which consists of exactly four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. I don’t know if you’ve heard it, but you might find it difficult to sit still that long. When the BBC aired the performance, they had to turn off their emergency systems that are designed to automatically fill silence with music. I suspect that your emergency systems would kick in almost as quickly as the radio stations. But silence is exactly what all of us need more of.

If you’re stuck on a problem and the answers evade you, silence can lead the way. If you have writer’s block and can’t seem to find the perfect word (or the motivation to look for it), try silence. If your teenager asks for a car, silence might just work wonders. (Just kidding.)

Nawaz suggest some tips for making your forays into the world of silence successful. Intention is the key, she says:

Set aside a specific time. Find two hours a week. It’s helpful to block out times that are least likely to be requested for meetings: Friday afternoons or before colleagues arrive in the morning.

Turn off the noise. This is not the time to answer emails or tackle a long-neglected project.

Experiment until you find the right format for you. Some people stay at their computers but turn off all Internet access; others journal. Some leave the office to avoid interruptions; they go to a separate building, on a long walk, or a drive into the mountains.

Keep your white space dates. Just as you don’t build muscles by showing up sporadically at the gym, perspective isn’t something you find once and then never need to foster again.

For me, I’ve turned off the radio in the car. I often ride without headphones. The hour I spend in Adoration each week is perhaps the most perfect silence I’ve found. You may find it differently… you may also find that anytime you sit quietly for four minutes you fall asleep, which is really telling you something else entirely.

One Comment

  1. “If we’re surrounded by even 30 seconds of silence, many of us will reach for our iPhones to check email.”

    well said, whenever I see the automatic response so many people have to their little electronic devices I can’t help but think of the word ‘Pavlovian’, and I just want to go whisper in their ear ‘Pavlov’s dog’ (most I’m sure would have to Google this on their iPhone!) As for silence, it would do us ALL a lot of good to be more quiet, I find yoga and mindful meditation to be most helpful for this…I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s ‘Stillness Speaks’ if you’d like to dive more deeply into the still-ness 🙂

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