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Silence as a Spiritual Tool

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.” Chaim Potok

Believe it or not, silence can be one of the most powerful of the spiritual tools in your spiritual toolbox. Silence doesn’t mean that all noises around you need to completely cease because, frankly, that’s never going to happen. Even out in nature when we seek “silence” there will be birds chirping, wind rustling in the trees, the sound of a brook nearby.

To sit in silence is to intentionally turn off the noises that modern times offer us as a distraction. The television or music always in the background is a deliberate distraction from our own thoughts and feelings. For many people now it’s impossible, if not psychologically almost painful, to sit in silence without at least having a phone to look at and amuse us.

In all the spiritual traditions there are stories of times where silence has a clear presence and purpose. Of prophets taking time to leave for extended periods for the purpose of meditation and introspection away from the crowds. Why is that?

“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.” Rumi

We need that silence to rejuvenate and connect with our souls and with Spirit. Let’s be honest here, sitting for a time in silence can be uncomfortable to say the least. We are very used to the distractions and, without them, we often don’t know what to do with ourselves. So think of sitting in silence as an opportunity. An opportunity to get to know yourself better. An opportunity to really examine what you like to do without the TV going. An opportunity to just allow yourself to spend time listening. Really listening. To other people, to your own thoughts and feelings, to Spirit and the messages it sends you. And sit in that silence without expectation or judgement because that opens up the opportunity for learning and understanding at the core of your being.

Easy ways to be in Silence:

  • Sit in quiet meditation for 10 minutes a day. Spend that time focusing on your breathing, a lit candle or anything else that you want to focus on. Don’t think too much about it. This is not the time to analyze what colors you’re seeing or how the smell of the candle/flower, etc. reminds you of your vacation from last summer. Just sit, observe and allow any insights to come to you without judging or analyzing it. This may be the best time to let Spirit make itself heard. (Go here for more information on meditation and mindfulness.)

  • Take a walk and leave your listening device at home. This is an easy way to be in silence. Really take the time to notice what’s around you. Even if you live in the middle of a large city there is still nature for you to notice. See the wind blowing through the trees, the birds hopping around the sidewalk or flowers that are popping up in unexpected places. This is your time for you.

  • Do your regular household chores without the TV or music. Hey, you have to do them anyway so why not turn them into a silent meditation?! Take the time to really notice what you are doing. Feel the satisfaction of watching your home become clean and neat. Then take a look around to just enjoy a job well done. Don't worry if it's not done perfectly because that's not the point. The point is to do whatever you can with intention and quiet. Turn something humdrum into a spiritual moment.

  • Do something creative in silence. Do a little journaling, pull out that old paint set, doodle if you don't feel like you can draw anything. Just doing a little something that is engaging the creative, right brain is positive. It's not about doing something that will win you a Pulitzer or get you into a museum. It's about just allowing yourself to step out of the box, come up with creative solutions, have fun and get away for a while from your analytical, left brain thinking which will also help you connect with Spirit.

Being in silence doesn't have to be difficult and you don't have to go to the extreme and take a vow of silence. Just allow moments here and there when you can, longer periods if it suits you. The time you take to detach from the chaos and noise around you will be time well spent and the rewards will surprise you!

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