This is a weekly series I’m writing in 2016 to focus on one of my three words for the year: beauty. Each Monday a post will explore some new aspect of beauty.
This year I took a five-day break between Christmas and New Year to get away in technology-free silence. A silent retreat of sorts is something I’ve done every year, usually in the wintertime, since I was 15 years old. And while the lengths of time and the locations have varied, I haven’t missed a year. Why? Because I think there is beauty and much to be learned from silence.
A friend of mine told me once that she dreaded silence. She always tried to have some kind of noise around her because silence was eerie and uncomfortable. That meant the TV was often on at home, even if she wasn’t actively watching it. The radio was permanently on in the car. Headphones were in when walking the dog. She claimed, she needed the noise.
But I’ve found, that while noise (music, conversations, movies, television shows, whatever) is awesome on so many levels. Silence is great and important too. Think about it, when do you have your brainstorm moments? When do you manage to work out a problem or a situation you are experiencing? Usually it is not while you’re belting our Bieber lyrics in the car (guilty!) or in the middle of an action packed movie starring The Rock (just watched and loved San Andreas). Many people say their brainstorms often come while falling asleep or in the shower. And why? Because usually those are moments of silence that let your brain do it’s thing.
We’ve become so inundated with auditory stimulation that the beauty of silence is lost. And I fully admit I am victim of this cultural phenomenon as much as the next person. Hearing the tires rolling on the highway sounds strange to me. Heck, even as I went to compose this post, I went to turn Spotify on to listen to a new favorite acoustic playlist. I refrained in order to really concentrate on what I’m saying.
After spending 5 days in silence I’ve realized a couple beautiful things about it.
Focus and concentration become easier. When there are no music lyrics or catchy beats to distract you, it’s much easier to get a task, really any task, done. Silence fosters that concentration. It allows us to be single-minded. It cuts down on the cultural ADD we all have at times.
Depths are discovered. When you are silent for any amount of time, but especially a significant chunk of time, you begin to go beyond the superficial, surface level thoughts and aspirations. You can step back from the day-to-day grind, from the endless to-do list, and think what’s really important here?
Introspection happens. Beyond depths in possibly thinking about your profession, your school work or you friends, silence gives you the chance to be introspective. To ask the important, life changing questions. What’s really important to me, to my betterment, to achieving my end? (Perhaps that too is why silence is oh so scary at times.)
Mind and body are rejuvenated. Imagine how much more sleep you would get every night if you didn’t have your phone or ipad near the bed. The technology-free silence, allows you to sleep when you should sleep. It lets you clear away the cobwebs that form, the distractions, the time wasters, to focus on the essentials, the things that are authentic to us.
Silence speaks. It’s amazing how many more things you actually hear when you are being silent. The birds chirping, a squirrel scurrying up a tree trunk, a passing car, your footsteps in the snow. In silence nature has the chance to speak to you, and you are finally giving yourself the permission to listen.
So, how can we receive these beauty benefits of silence? I know not everyone can take a week to recharge, but an hour, thirty minutes every day where you turn off the phone, shut down the computer, turn off the TV and stop the music, even that could render huge beauty benefits for day-to-day life. Commit to a little silence everyday. It’ll be a beautiful thing.