The quieter you become

the more you are able to hear.


December 22 of each year is ‘Be a Lover of Silence’ Day.

Becoming a lover of silence brings us wonderful gifts. One of those gifts is that, as Rumi says, when we are silent we can hear more.


How do we become a lover of silence, so that we might hear more?


The picture above reminds me of silence, not only because of the immensity of the scenery, which you can easily imagine is exquisitely quiet, but because the mountain is reflected in the water below. So too, will our inner and outer selves reflect each other.


In addition, the picture includes several elements: Earth, Water and Air. The element of Earth symbolizes our external physical selves. The element of Water represents our internal emotional selves. The element of Air represents the mind – you may notice that it is above the other two elements. The element of Air also represents our breath, which is intimately connected with our mind. When we slow our breath, we slow our mind. That relaxes our body (Earth element) and our emotions (Water element).


Our world is full of sounds – some pleasant and others not so pleasant. I’m sure that you all can think of environmental sounds, such as traffic, sirens, alarms, barking dogs, loud music or excessive talking that you might wish to stop.


In addition to those external sounds, we all have plenty of internal sounds. There is mind chatter, or monkey mind (when our thoughts swing from one thing to another). Sometimes we get ‘ear worms’ – you know, when you hear a jingle or a phrase from a song and it plays over and over and over again in your brain. Some people have ‘tinnitus’ – unwanted and persistent ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or even roaring in their ears. These are times when silence truly would be golden.


Sometimes we crave silence and sometimes we dislike or even fear silence. Like many aspects of life, our reaction to quiet stillness depends to a large degree on what we associate it with. Someone who hasn’t been allowed – whether by external or internal forces – to speak up may associate silence with not having power or choice. You may be familiar with negative synonyms for silence: to gag, shut up, stifle, stop, or even, colloquially, to kill. For someone who has lost a loved one, silence may remind them of the loss of their loved one’s voice. So we acknowledge that silence is not a ‘one size fits all’ prescription, and honor those for whom it is anything but comforting at the moment.

For those times when silence is beneficial to us, finding a way to be in quiet stillness can feel soothing and even nourishing. My teacher, Sri Amma Karunamayi, often urges us to be silent a full day each week, or at least for a few hours. This may mean turning off the phone and all other electronic devices, as well as letting people around you know that you will not be conversing for that time. If your life does not allow for a day, or even an hour, of silence, you might find solace in moments of silence. Practice finding those moments. Perhaps when you are driving and pull up to a stoplight, you can turn off the radio or podcast and sit in the quiet for those few moments, just noticing your breathing and imagining your head being a clear space of shimmering light.

As Rumi says, once we are in silence, we are better able to hear our inner spiritual guidance. The Christmas season song says, “Silent night, holy night.” In many faiths, silence is respected as a path to divinity. It is a path that anyone can step onto at any time.


What next step will you take?