What truly is silence? As I write this, the rain is bouncing off the windows and the world is alive with sound. And yet, I would happily call this silence as there is not a single humanmade “noise” to be heard.

Indeed, is silence even something that solely resides in the outside world? I may be outwardly in silence whilst the voices in my head are clamouring for attention. Conversely, there may be complete silence in my head in the midst of outer clamour.

I certainly know which of these states I prefer. If I am simply out in the world, that inner silence allows me to be in complete harmony with whatever is going on around me regardless of whether cars are honking or birds chirping. Nothing can intrude on that inner silence.

And that is not to say that inner silence can override outer noise. There are times when outer noise grabs our attention and distracts us from what we actually want to be doing – thinking, writing, listening – and yet the extent of the distraction depends on the nature of the sound. A bird singing doesn’t feel the same as a truck reversing.

Silence might therefore be better thought of as an experience rather than an objective state of affairs. How then might we be resisting this experience?

Embracing the Experience

We can for starters think differently about how we interpret “noise”. If trees can creak, animals scurry and birds sing in a silent wood, surely any “noise” can become our friend?

Internally, we might pay more attention to our inner voices. The more we busy ourselves with activities and noise in the outer world, the louder these voices often get as they try to get our attention.

This is certainly what happens to me. It is only when I contemplate or meditate in some form and give the voices my attention and the time to say what needs to be said that they calm down. That they feel heard!

I have worked with clients who fill their worlds with noise to avoid being alone with their inner voices. They play music when running, turn on the radio in the car, spend their days in meetings, leave the TV on at home – anything to avoid being alone with themselves and the possibility of silence.

In many ways it feels that our spiritual self lives in that inner silence. Unless we create space for it, we may have a feeling of being hollow, of not knowing who we are or what our true voice sounds like.

The “Where” in “Where Do I Need Silence Right Now?” can mean many things. It can obviously relate to some environment you inhabit. It can, however, be a little more abstract and enquire as to what part of your life (including your work) may benefit from silence.

There are relationships that we crowd out with noise. Relationships that would benefit from some space. Some silence. Some stillness.



Questions for Reflection

Where Is the Silence?
#R5 Where Is the Silence?

Questions in the Image:

  • Where is the silence?
  • How have I resisted silence?
  • Where do I need silence right now?
  • How might I clear more space for silence?

Want to Further Explore This Theme?

In truth, to explore silence we need to experience silence. The invitation would be to combine stillness with silence in the form of some meditative practice. Remember, silence is not just about the noise outside but also the noise inside.

That said, if you feel called to read further around this theme, Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge (link to Amazon.co.uk) may offer some contemporary insights.

Next Steps – From Reflection to Action: These reflections model pausing and thinking, and hopefully show how this can quickly translate into fresh insights and decisive actions. They are centred around three “archetypal” questions:

  • What have I learnt?
  • What do I need right now? and
  • What are my intentions?

The aim is to practice translating newfound insights into viable options.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day.

Just now, as I see a figure walking into the distance with a small bag on his back, I am curious as to the horizons he is uncovering. I wonder: What new horizons may be waiting for me?

About Tom O’Leary

I coach, mentor and teach high performers to thrive by focusing on the choices we make.

In truth, our paths in life are paved by those choices. We can talk all day but to make our lot better we need to make the smartest decisions and then execute on them as best possible.

My view is that it is about slowing down to speed up. This means spending time being curious and contemplating what might be possible so that when we take action, we can bring all our energy and power to bear.

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