You can't wait until you visit a monastery or you'll never practice it.
Three years ago I had the opportunity to go on a 24-hour silent retreat and experience the beauty and calm of prolonged solitude and silence. It was restful, I felt more connected to myself and to God, and returned ready to live every day with more intention. Most notably in the weeks following, I had more energy to be present to the people in my life.
Silence allows us to spend time with ourselves; it allows us space for our thoughts to grow in creativity, and to connect with our emotions. Silence helps us slow down and recognize what is going on internally, rather than continually responding to external stimulation. It gives us a break from the constant input of information that comes with modern life.
The benefits of silence and contemplation
Research shows that contemplative practices have several benefits. One study showed that such practices increase an accurate perception of heartbeat rate, which improved ability to tell one’s own emotional state. When we are able to pause in silence, we can check in with our body and our emotions, which helps us take better care of ourselves, as well as increase awareness of what we are bringing into our relationships.
Another study showed that regular contemplative practice has multiple positive impacts on our brains. It can improve working memory, the function of holding information in the short term, such as remembering instructions, or what you were working on before you were interrupted. It also has been shown to increase your “verbal filter” and your ability to stay on task toward your goals. It also helps emotional regulation, allowing us to feel emotions without being overwhelmed by them.
Silence: A challenging but valuable discipline
Practicing silence in a noisy world
Many of us would be hard pressed to identify a time in our day where we experience more than a couple of minutes of silence. When we’re not talking with others, we fill our sonic space with different types of media, and with the advent of podcasts, we can always have something to listen to. For some of us, the absence of sound is almost startling, as we feel automatically compelled to turn on the TV or radio.