20 Ways Sitting in Silence Can Completely Transform Your Life

Sitting in Silence

“Silence is a source of great strength.” ~Lao Tzu

For over two years I spent one out of every four weeks in silence. At the time I was living at a Zen Monastery and every month we would have a week-long silent retreat.

During this retreat we sat meditation in silence, ate in silence, worked in silence, and only communicated through hand gestures and written notes.

At first living like this was hard, but over time I learned to grow to appreciate silence. By the time I left I learned that silence was my friend and teacher.

What did silence teach me?

1. Satisfaction

I used to think I needed to watch TV every night. But at monastery I went without and discovered I didn’t need it.

Silence taught me to be happy with less. Pick something that’s weighing you down and let it go. Your life will thank you.

2. Expression

When you can only talk by writing a note, you only say what’s important. Before the monastery I talked a lot but said little.

Silence taught me that a few simple words well spoken have more power than hours of chatter. Think of one simple thing you can say that would help someone feel better and say it.

3. Appreciation

Being able to speak makes life easy, but when I couldn’t talk I learned how much I relied on others.

Silence taught me to appreciate the value of relating to others. The next time you see your friends or family, try to really listen. Deep listening expresses deep appreciation.

4. Attention

Several times at my first retreat I thought my phone was vibrating. But then I would remember I didn’t have my phone. It showed me how my phone divided my attention.

Silence taught me how important it is to let go of distractions. The next time you are with someone you care about, try turning off your phone and putting it away. It will make paying attention easier.

5. Thoughts

I once sat a retreat next door to a construction project. What amazed me was how easily my thoughts drowned out the noise. I realized if my thoughts were this loud, I’d better make them as wise as possible.

Silence taught me the importance of shaping my thinking. Take time each day to notice your thoughts and let go of thoughts that don’t serve you.

6. Nature

Because I sat retreat in every season, I know that the sound of wind in fall is different than it is in winter.

Silence taught me to notice nature. Take a short walk outside in silence and you’ll discover the wisdom and peace that nature has to offer.

7. Body

During retreat I noticed that whenever I got lost in thought, I lost track of my body. And when I focused on my body, my thoughts would calm down.

Silence taught me to be in my body. Close your eyes and ask, “What sensations do I feel in my hand?” Learning to feel your body can calm your troubled mind.

8. Overstimulation

Whenever I went into town after retreat, the world seemed so loud and fast. I came to realize how much our senses have to process most of the time.

Silence taught me the importance of reducing the stimulation. Enjoy some quiet time everyday. The less you see and hear, the more settled your mind can become.

9. Sound

People would come to the monastery and remark how quiet it was. But living at the monastery I knew all the noises, from frogs, to owls, to the sound of sandals on the sidewalk.

Silence taught me that the world is a rich texture of sounds. Sit in front of your house and close your eyes. You’ll be amazed at what you hear if you listen long enough.

10. Humanity

During retreat I was surrounded by imperfect people who were doing their best. Some were happy, some were sad, but all were wonderfully human.

Silence taught me that people display great beauty. Find a good spot to people watch with an open heart. What you see may inspire you.

11. Space

For a long time anytime something difficult came up, I would just distract myself. But retreat taught me that if I avoided something it would never go away.

Silence taught me that space helps me face hard times. The next time you face something difficult, pause and honor whatever’s arising.

12. Love

I used to think love was this big thing. But in retreat I found that I felt love for so many things.

Silence taught me that love can be simple. Think of someone you haven’t said I love you to recently and tell them.

13. Courage

I used to think courage was about facing danger, but during retreat I realized that real courage is about facing yourself.

Silence taught me the courage it takes to be still. When we stop moving everything we’re running from catches up. The next time you are afraid, stop and wait for it to pass. There is immense courage inside your heart.

14. Perseverance

Every retreat reminded me that speaking is easy, but staying quiet is hard.

Silence isn’t flashy, but it has an immense power to endure. The next time someone doubts you, instead of disagreeing, silently vow not to give up. Action speaks volumes.

15. Faith

I often ask for reassurance or feedback. But living in silence meant I had to trust my instincts.

Silence taught me to have faith in myself. The next time you begin to feel anxious, sit in silence and see if you can find the space of deep faith that lives in your heart.

16. Honesty

I used to lie so I wouldn’t have to explain myself. But when I couldn’t talk I began to notice this impulse and how much it degraded my integrity.

Silence taught me the importance of telling the truth. Notice times where you tell little lies and try telling the truth instead. It isn’t always easy but it’s the first step to trusting ourselves and others. 

17. Gratitude

During retreat I didn’t have a lot of comforts. It helped me see how much I took for granted and how much I had to be grateful for.

At the end of every day sit in silence and ask yourself what am I grateful for. You’ll be amazed at the blessings you discover.

18. Simplicity

I used to love drama and conflict. But at retreat I found I was happier when I kept it simple.

Silence taught me that simplicity and joy are close companions. Pick one space in your home you could simplify. Keep it simple for one month and enjoy the ease it offers your life.

19. Connection

I used to think I had to talk in order to feel connected. I realized during retreat that I can feel connected just by being near people I care about.

Silence taught me that words can get in the way. Do something in silence with someone you love. It will be awkward at first but eventually you will see what it means just to be in someone presence.

20. Truth

I studied philosophy in college and I thought I could read about truth. But retreat taught me that truth is found in silence.

Silence has taught me a deeper truth than words ever could. Sit in silence once a week and feel the truth in your heart. It’s there whether you can express it in words or not.

Photo by Hartwig HKD

About Samuel McCree

Samuel “Gentoku” McCree is a Mindful Fitness thought leader, personal trainer, and mindful living coach from Portland, OR. He trained for two years at a Zen monastery, is an endurance athlete, and founder of MindFitMove. You can find his blog and a free Ebook on Your Sexy Brain at

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  • Michael Scott Dembesky

    Excellent article, thank you. Loved everyone of these 20 ways & could relate on many levels… from my own past chaotic life to spending time in a monastery along daily morning meditations. You hit the nail on the head many times & this article I will be sharing w.many others. Thanks again & congrats on your path~

  • This is beautiful! Amazing list, and definitely motivating me to keep up with meditation.

  • Samuel Gentoku McCree

    Thanks Meg Even a little bit helps everyday!

  • Samuel Gentoku McCree

    Thanks for you kind comment. I’m glad you liked it!

  • Fiona

    Beautiful, beautiful post, and like so many other things in Tiny Buddha, just what I needed to read today. Thank you so much for sharing the wisdom you have acquired on your journey.

  • Lyndon Norton

    Excellent article! Every point is a great lesson! But the greatest lesson I learned is that I still need to let go of my perfectionism/anal retentiveness, as all your thens should be than. Ha ha. Sorry not meaning to offend, I’m laughing at my self! Peace.

  • Josh

    what a great post, thank you.. 15 especially resonated with me.. cheers,,

  • Hannah

    Your post really touched me and gave me a lot of hope and the feeling I am on the right way by doing meditation. I am dealing with pretty severe depression and anxiety right now that have been building up for years. I felt restless for weeks now and though I knew it theoretically, I never realized how afraid I am of certain feelings, especially anger. Today, sitting in silence, I finally didn’t keep myself from feeling anger and the relief I am feeling tonight is incredible. I am sure that reading your post in the morning gave me a push in the right direction. 😉 thanks and best to you!

  • George

    You’ve inspired me to consider more times to just sit and be silent. Wonderful article. Question: Were you able to play music during the retreats? I would think that music would be something that I’d be drawn to if I couldn’t speak and might be more meaningful playing during those times.

  • Alana

    Thanks very much for the great article! Your list is very short and consider, very zen indeed. I have been wanting to explore my options in going to retreats like this one, but I’m not sure where to start. Where have you gone to or where are some places I can begin to explore my options? Peace!

  • Alana

    Oops… Concise*

  • lv2terp

    Great lessons/advice, thank you for sharing your insight! 🙂

  • Hithere

    This is one of my favorite articles on here. Now I’m going to sit in silence and reflect on that.

  • Renée Hurt Thomas

    Eloquently stated and simple. I feel socially awkward when I try to relay in audible terms how meditating is one of the most important things I do for myself. I truly enjoyed this article and found it to be most helpful I have read so far. Thank you.

  • Ryan

    Beautiful article, but in number 20, it’s THAN not THEN. Then indicates time, than a comparison.

  • Nameynamename

    what a load of horse shit.

  • Satish

    Excellent Article. I started realizing that the more I talk or the more materials I have the more my mind is getting mixed up. I just let go some stuff and there I am, a happy person again. I also feel very burdened when I buy something, but I feel so good when I give my money to some cause or just to Salvation Army guy standing outside the Walmart in ice-cold winter. The more I introspect the more I feel the connection between people. I still remember the simple smile I throw at people I regularly meat and it speaks volumes. I feel like meditating even when I take brisk walk, silently, without my phone disturbing me. Yes, as someone said “Silence is golden”. Practice silence and dig the gold mine.

  • Ekaterina Kaminskaya

    Time of Devil. He reigns supreme now. People’s hearts and faith’re weak. It’s easy to follow it…this 20 advices, easy for understanding.

  • Maryann Pearson.

    Thank you Samuel. These observations are very clear, very wonderfully stated. I especially appreciated your thoughts on Nature, Courage, Faith, Honesty and Truth. I love how we always find what we need when we need it. Blessings to you.

  • Samuel Gentoku McCree

    Thanks for the comment. The then than distinction is one i often neglect so I appreciate the heads up.

  • Samuel Gentoku McCree

    Thanks Renee. I’m glad you keep trying to express yourself even when it may be hard. I feel awkward about ti too sometimes, but it’s always worth it.

  • Samuel Gentoku McCree


  • Samuel Gentoku McCree

    We had one retreat a year where music was a form of meditation, but in general the only music was chanting.

  • danny

    Thank you, Samuel. Interestingly, I don’t meditate, but I recently started sitting “in silence” because of my “dis-ease” and it has really helped in many of the ways you express.

  • Float Buoy

    I can thoroghly recommend floatation tanks which are a great way to experience profound silence and deep levels of meditation with very little effort.

  • conrad

    Great article, l am currently learning to sit in silence. I’m finding this a challenge but l’m going to keep it up.

  • Love this article because so many of us it’s so hard to stop and let our mind rest.

  • Wow! I will try to have a longer quiet time. I think it’s great to close my eyes and just let things be. Let thoughts come and go. Be mindful of what’s happening to you physically. Every time is a learning session 🙂


  • Lisa Kay

    Your article gave me hope. With all the chaos going on in the world I am living in constant fear. It is debilitating. I am desperate to find some kind of peace in my life. Your article may help. Thank You.

  • Thanks for an inspiring article, Toku!

    I spend 90+% of my time in silence (because I live alone and work from home) although not necessarily the profound kind of silence. I definitely experience being together in silence as most connecting, meaningful and satisfying but I tend to forget it and so typically engage in conversations when interacting with others. Which is great too but not the same. So thanks for the reminder!

    I’m curious – how did you experience the transition from monastery life to living in the world?

  • Debbie Scholem

    What an interesting list. When I was growing up I often felt stressed because my family hated silences. At meal times we would talk over each other and god forbid the conversation stopped – something must be wrong. As kids we were expected to ‘entertain’ for attention. Tell a joke or an interesting story and you will get the love. So it’s taken me years to unfold those habits and I’m still trying to. My husband of 34 years has been a great help. In his family you just got together and if someone felt like talking they did and if you didn’t – so what. They were never judged by how much the ‘contributed to the conversation’. I’m learning that silence IS golden. Silence is not an absence of caring or love. I’m even learning to seek it through meditation. Wish me luck.

  • Aroon bakshi

    Indeed a spiritual answer to todays stress and noise….silence…thanx for d great directive….

  • Caporali

    Actually went silent for an entire 2 weeks when I was 15 years old. Chamged me. ..immensely. forever. 😉
    Beautifully written. Thank you.

  • Rohini Anand

    Thank you so much for this post! You have inspired me to try this out. I feel very excited about this 🙂 Sending lots of love to you! <3