How to Practice Silence and Solitude? (Part-2)
Welcome to the second part of this two-part series on how to practice silence and solitude.
Were you alarmed as well, after learning that “[many] people prefer electric shocks over being alone with their own thoughts”?
It may sound pretty extreme however, if we take a moment to reflect how occupied and on-the-go most of us are during our day-to-day lives, it’s not all that difficult to comprehend this research’s observation where people found silence and solitude unbearable.
With our limited knowledge, understanding and experience of the topic, today many of us relate silence and solitude with boredom. However, the matter of the fact is most of us simply don’t know how to spend time alone with our very own thoughts. We lack courage to look in our own interior mirror and come in terms with our true selves. As such, we keep ourselves constantly occupied.
Many of us tend to believe (consciously or not) experiencing silence and solitude is for individuals who live a secluded and so called “off-social” lives. It’s for people who live in the woods, or mountains tops, or perhaps in a hut on the bank of a lake or river away from traditional civilizations. It’s for yogis, monks, meditators, spiritual gurus or for individuals who have taken the path of detachment.
Very few (relative to our human population) of us today are aware of the importance and benefits of silence and solitude for our physical, soul and spiritual health. What’s even more interesting is out of that small subset of people, majority believe that silence and solitude is only accessible through guided meditation, spiritual and yoga retreats.
These observations are certainly correct and such living style, environments and retreats absolutely encourage, support and compliment the practice of silence and solitude. However, the application of this practice is not solely limited to aforementioned.
Yes, the most commonly believed perception towards practicing silence and solitude is only partially true.
I believe the practice of silence and solitude is indeed for everyone regardless of their living surroundings and lifestyle. Anyone, who is committed to live a happy and fulfilling life aligned with their soul and values should spend some time in silence and solitude. Being in silence and solitude enable us to connect with our soul, deepest thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s a practice of self-love and healing.
The obvious question here is ‘if silence and solitude are so vitalizing and important for our wellbeing then why the vast majority of the population seldom experience them?’
Humans are referred to as “social animals” and we indeed are! We spend most of our wake hours interacting and surrounded by others either physically or digitally. The obvious implication—silence and solitude have become foreign to us. Now, it’s worth mentioning here that social interaction isn’t essentially wrong, in fact it’s an important facet of our lives. However, constant immersion in society is truly depleting and exhausting our soul. People saying “I need some me-time” is one of the most common results of this soul draining experience.
Additionally, we live in a noisy world—a world where right from the time we wake up, we’re exposed to non-stop outside noise: cell phones, radio, internet, traffic, television, music, and constant talking of too many people, who simply have too much to say. No wonder why silence and solitude appear to be so unattainable by many of us.
Despite what may feel impossible to practice and experience, there exist plenty of simple and powerful ways to incorporate the practice of silence in our day-to-day life. Yes, we don’t have to leave our current life and become a monk or yogi to practice this life changing ritual.
Here are some simple and practical ways to introduce, build and experience constructive silence and solitude into your daily routine, even in a hectic and overloaded life. Although some of the ways listed below may explicitly say “silence” however, as we discussed silence and solitude are deeply interconnected and are practically inseparable.
- Schedule at least two small periods of silence every day to consciously observe and listen to silence. One in the morning, before you leave your house, and one in the evening. The session could be as short as fifteen minutes. While this could be done anywhere, at the start we recommend that you find a quiet area in your house or out in the nature for this daily ritual.
- Intentionally disconnect from all sorts of external stimulus/noise for certain durations every day. This way, you are mindfully reducing your distractions to simply observe your silence.
- After you’re comfortable with these shorter sessions, extend the duration to a few hours, a half-day, or even a whole day. These longer sessions are challenging to honour (especially at the start) but incredibly fruitful.
- Consciously minimize the use of your digital devices. This will significantly reduce the internal noise and the emotional roller-coaster ride that your brain goes through because of it.
- Eat your meal in silence. With no distractions, you can put all your focus on your food. The same food you’ve eaten for years will taste unique and extra delicious.
- Solo driving (if applicable) time can offer an excellent opportunity to practice silence and solitude. With windows rolled up and no radio, music or podcast playing inside, we can convert our commute time into mindfully listening, observing and connecting with our thoughts and inner-self.
- Convert your morning grooming and coffee/breakfast making and eating routine into a practice of silence ritual by not checking phone, news or playing radio, TV, music.
- When you have a strong desire to talk, choose to stay in silence. No singing. No humming. No talking to yourself. Beautifully put by Thomas Merton: “It is not speaking that breaks our silence but the anxiety to be heard.” The more you listen to your silence, the louder it will become.
- Try to consciously listen more during the day. This will automatically reduce the number of words you speak and the associated loss of energy. Also, this will inevitably make the practice of silence easier.
- Be conscious of what comes out of your mouth and your motive for speaking it. Ask yourself whether it’s necessary or needless. This will slowly eliminate the superfluous-talking habit, as we often speak because we are bored and/or uncomfortable in the presence of silence, not because we have something meaningful to say.
- Although, relatively harder to practice but it’s possible to practice silence while being in motion. For example, doing yoga, walking in nature, gardening, or even buying groceries and running errands as long as you focus on the practice.
- Observe and journal your journey of silence. Here are some questions to consider at the beginning:
- How am I interacting with others without the use of words?
- What are some of the changes I’ve noticed in my life?
- How have my energy levels changed?
It’s apparent from above that we don’t have to become hermits or be on guided meditation, spiritual and yoga retreats everyday to practice silence and solitude. We can simply bring this life-changing practice and associated benefits as part of our current day-to-day living. The key is to make a committed effort to start small and build on it. Here is our humble proposal: consciously practice silence and solitude twice a day (for fifteen minutes to an hour) for one month and then let us know about your journey and what you’ve noticed.