When was the last time you didn't have background noise for at least 20-30 minutes? It's really tough to find the sweetness of silence.
It can be found in unexpected hidden places but, more likely, they are usually cultivated and planned.
Why is silence crucial?
Well known nurse, Florence Nightingale, wrote that “Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on [the] sick or well.” In short, we need it for our mental health.
If you're into research, here's a great source for the phenomena of the silence/health relationship.
How can we cultivate silence?
You can't avoid noise all together, so searching for peace and quiet becomes essential. Silence can be slippery. We catch a glimpse of it and it vanishes. We soak up a drop of it and it runs out.
So how can we keep it long enough for the effects to be beneficial?
Tell people around you that you're learning about silence. Or better yet, plan for it together with those you love. Either way, having others aware of your expectations for silence is best.
I have to remember that I'm the only one who knows my threshold for noise. I need a plan, a place and a time to make it happen. A routine of silence keeps my soul from withering.
Invest in Silence
If you're budget is small - buy several sets of comfortable earplugs. I regularly wear earplugs at the grocery store and sometimes even at home! Maybe you don't have a lion living inside of you, but earplugs tend to tame mine.
If you're going big, you can invest in a personal retreat. There's no shame in paying for silence. Catch a delightful, secluded Airbnb, packing only a teachable attitude and a fantastic novel.
Families learn partly from their environment. Modelling silence is powerful!
In our home I strive to create silent moments, but it's not easy. I teach them to value silence by requiring it. Put simply - we practice.
Everyday we strive for 1 hour of silence (at least).
Yes, there's tension/whining beforehand. It's a matter of training. We started small. But I want you to hear that it's possible to take a loud environment and carve out a piece of silence by teaching everyone (even yourself!), little by little, how valuable it is. The end results are remarkable.
Beware of counterfeit silence
Do you go to coffee shops to be alone? Perhaps that sounds silly to you. But I do it.
How about listening to a podcast or music you love to "get away?" What about grocery shopping? I want to caution you not to replace silence with solitary activities. Being alone is a treat, but it's not a silence substitute.
For example, if the TV is always on, or music (yes, even worship music), we need to call it what it is: background noise. As obvious as it sounds, noise is not silence.
Silence is not waiting for you in stores or online. Imposed noise waits in almost every context. Just take a moment today and listen. These places can initially feel like we're getting silence because there is less noise. Less noise is not silence.
Background noise, quieter spaces and being alone are all wonderful escapes from a screaming world, but we must learn a deeper value for silence.
The only exception I can think of to this is noise from nature. Wind, ocean waves, leaves rustling, thunderstorms, bird chirping - All of these can satisfy our built-in desire.
We recently discovered a new level of valuing of silence in our family. An increasing awareness of the nearby highway began to wear on us. "It's no big deal," we said.
But...one afternoon we went for a spontaneous hike. Oh my word. Silence stared us in the face and we realized we had become strangers.
Quickly, we found another location that suited us better and allowed for silence to come along and be an active part of our lives. It's made all the difference!
We have to crave silence enough to look.
We must believe it's necessary enough in order to treasure it.
We must be tenacious enough to grasp it with both hands and put it into practice in our lives.
Do you crave more silence in your life? I'd love to hear from you and encourage you as you search it out. Please share this post with anyone in your life that could use a moment of reflection about the topic of silence.