“Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything.” ~Gordon Hempton
Years ago, when I first started my emotional healing journey, I was longing to reconnect with who I truly was and free my mind of all the paralyzing thoughts and feelings that were wrecking my well-being and happiness.
After months of finding new ways to improve my life, I finally felt happy. I was healthy and fulfilled and knew exactly what I wanted out of life.
I decluttered my personal space from unwanted things and people, completely changed my morning routine, and finally started living in the moment. Life was good and complete.
Until I would hit a roadblock.
Unplanned circumstances, stressful situations, and loud noises in crowded places would trigger emotions of resentment and annoyance.
The pressure of constant automatic speaking, my voice echoing in my head rethinking what I said and dwelling on what didn’t sound the way I wanted it to, kept me restless and agitated. I was also highly sensitive to negativity and judgment from others, and that influenced how I dealt with a particular moment.
That’s when it hit me: Even after all the progress, when I thought that I had finally started living the way I wanted, I still felt anxious and easily irritated by my daily life. While I thought that I knew myself well, I had yet to learn where the frustration was coming from and what was causing me to feel stressed.
Naturally, as an introvert, I longed for quiet time, away from the world, in silence.
As a child, I would spend hours writing and reading in my secret hideouts, in complete solitude. It was in my nature, who I truly was. But as I grew up, things changed. The noise of everyday life was too loud, and I needed to find a way to create calm in my daily environment.
Still, no matter how hard I tried to bring silence back into my life, I saw it as a defeat.
I was fighting the urge to accept it. I was taught not to recognize the value of silence, and I believed that quiet meant wrong.
This is true for so many of us. Instead of understanding and accepting ourselves the way we are, we go through life thinking that something is wrong with us because we don’t fit into the society’s norm of what is “socially acceptable.”
Later on, after analyzing myself further, it became clear to me that what was causing uneasiness had nothing to do with external influences, but rather with how I filtered information and what I allowed to come through to me.
I found myself programming my responses based on other people’s level of comfort, because I didn’t want to upset anyone. And instead of focusing on my needs, I worried about what others would think.
I bogged my brain down with endless problems, worries, and self-sabotaging thoughts that ultimately made me feel anxious and stressed.
In situations where I needed to stand up for myself, I would instead back down and do nothing, thinking that if I failed to comply, I would be criticized and rejected. This was especially true in a toxic relationship with a person whose influence was detrimental to my well-being.
And though I forced myself to stop withdrawing from the world that wanted me to talk constantly, I longed for silence that would help me heal.
That’s when I realized that the silence I craved more than anything was the silence I had already experienced as a child. So, I returned to practices that brought me back to the energizing, much needed moments of stillness.
Writing in my journal helped quiet down my thoughts and feelings of irritation. I found meditation helpful in preparing for a busy day ahead. I learned that staying away from the noise that was exhausting, both physically and mentally, helped me hear myself better.
Even though it took months to master the incredible power of silence, this restorative practice allowed me to always be in control of the noise around me, having the power to never let it get through to me.
The invigorating silence became a regular part of my life. It helped me understand who I’ve always been and free my mind of meaningless thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.
By silencing my speech, I experienced a sense of enhanced awareness and steadiness, which changed my perspective on things that had previously caused me unnecessary stress.
During this time, I recognized that I’d often spoken out of fear, because I constantly felt the need to explain myself. And although I’ve always been protective of my time, I never knew how to guard it fully, so I would let others steal away the moments I needed just for myself. This would make me feel anxious because I found it hard to say no to the things I didn’t want to do, and I’d then inevitably feel resentment toward myself.
Practicing silence taught me that silence isn’t uncomfortable, and that pausing for a few seconds before saying yes gives me a chance to connect with what I want and need.
It helped me realize that people only understand from their level of perception, so I stopped justifying my actions and choices. I stopped telling people more than they needed to know and kept my privacy sacred. I realized that when I stopped talking I was able to hear what my heart was telling me.
And it wasn’t just my voice I silenced; I also learned to silence my judgment. When I stopped judging people and situations, I surrendered my ego. I realized that no matter how much I tried to have things my way, I was bound for disappointment, so I learned to let go of the outcome.
This profound experience helped me to develop patience and understanding for people’s reactions and situations I encountered. I learned to control the way in which I responded to challenges and negativity around me.
At the time, I traveled often for work and remember experiencing countless delays at the airport due to bad weather conditions. I witnessed raging passengers lashing out on ground personnel in the most outrageous manner. I, too, would let unnecessary stress build up instead of accepting that this kind of situation was out of my control and recognizing that I could choose to stay calm and look for alternative responses.
Staying silent and observant broadened my perspective and helped me monitor my thoughts in order to understand situations better. This practice has brought an immense peace to my everyday life, helping me embrace patience and stay mindful toward myself and others.
While I understand that there will always be people I don’t agree with, I know that being judgmental is hurtful and unnecessary, and it takes away the positive energy that could be turned into something meaningful.
It certainly doesn’t feel good to be judged, so who gives me the right to judge others?
This realization helped me decide to stop gossiping. Each time I’d find myself in such a situation, I would tactfully change the course of conversation by bringing the person who initiated the gossip in the spotlight. People love to talk about themselves, and this has given me an opportunity to learn more about them and focus not only on the words they say but on their whole being and behavior.
When I stopped talking about the people I disliked, I moved on to the areas of my life that needed love and attention. I started focusing on my health, happiness, and personal growth. I chose to exchange the emotions of anger and resentment for feelings of love and acceptance.
Silencing my need to be judgmental also helped me to let go of the negative thoughts without getting emotionally attached. So, every time I’d encounter such a thought I would put it in writing. I’d let myself become aware of it, but wouldn’t let it overcome me and ruin the moment I was in. It helped me silence my emotions of fear and anger by staying observant and understanding why and when they reappeared.
We waste so much time on nonsense we don’t need to hear. We talk when we don’t have to because we are afraid of being misunderstood.
Let peace and quiet become your priority. Acknowledge the noise around you, but don’t try to fight it. When you accept that there will always be noise in your life, you’ll understand how easy it is to control it. Because there is always a way to turn it off.
You can switch off the blithering noise of your car radio, put your phone on silent, and turn off the notifications. You can stop reading the news and limit the time you spend on social media. You can stop listening to what you don’t want to hear.
And when you find it hard to escape the noise around you, start writing. When your brain is overloaded with information and longing for rest, help it by jotting down your thoughts, emotions, and ideas and unload some burdens, leaving room for it to relax and rejuvenate.
When you find silence, you find inner peace.
“Silence isn’t empty, it’s full of answers.” Can you hear it?