The Sound of Silence

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Have you been one of those fortunate people to spend a few days in silence?  Most of us have very little time in that state and many of us are afraid of it.

Growing up on 52 acres of woodland without neighbors may have had some disadvantages socially, but it taught me some things about the beauty of silence.  Of course, after leaving home I was surrounded by people, activity and noise for most of my adult life.  You might imagine that living with 4 active children would be a noisy, chaotic environment.  I can remember feeling pretty overwhelmed with the constant energy and sounds at times.

But the children have left home and there is more quiet in my life when I am not at work.  This is different, however, than embarking on a long weekend retreat with 40 other people and deliberately agreeing to live in silence for a couple of days.  Our imposed quiet began at 2:30 PM on Saturday and ended on Monday at 8AM – so not such a long time really.

It was interesting.  We had all had some time to chat and get to know each other, and then we stopped speaking, and much of the time, did not deliberately make eye contact.  We supported one another in this way – to allow each of us to be alone with our thoughts, sounds, and experiences.  For me, it was initially a relief to be able to just rest….no small talk, no need to entertain, listen or encourage….just rest.  Then I became more aware of my thoughts and self-talk, and the constant ringing in my ears that has been with me for a few years now.  I soothed myself  by taking walks and paying attention to the beautiful gardens, river and trails available to us.  I read books, I wrote essays, I focused on the farm-to-table meals I ate and savored every bite.  I  watched a chipmunk steal food from a squirrel.  Some of the time I sat and just let myself be aware of all the activity going on in my head.  The inner and outer world is amazing and inspiring when we are just quiet and aware of our surroundings.


Towards the end of the time period, I began to hit a wall and the silence felt a little confining.  I started to want to interact with someone, or just use my voice.   It would have been helpful to stay in the silent state for just one more day to work through this wall of resistance, but the time was up.  At first I actually left the dining hall at breakfast to get away from the noise.  I felt a need to gradually get back into it.  But very soon, the familiar sounds of people talking was comfortable again, and I happily chatted with my friend on the way home.

I will definitely take another silent retreat – I think there is more to experience… We all view silence somewhat differently.  For those who thrive on human conversation, it must be pretty challenging.  My husband, for example would not seek this experience, but for me, it was a return to childhood days spent making nature trails, reading books in the tree house and building dams in the creek.  Silence has a sound and it is beautiful.

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  1. Helen Gruenhut on August 8, 2014 at 12:39 pm said:

    In this day and time, silence is a gift, a gift to wrap one’s arms
    around and get enmeshed in.
    I often think of my dogs who listen to a TV a lot of their day. They have such sensitive hearing. I have ear phones now, so they can enjoy the silence.
    It is a noisy generation. I cherish the times that I sit under trees and have silence.
    Try some silence. You will like it.

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