Updated: Nov 1
In our last entry, we were talking about practising contemplation and observation as a way to cultivate awareness and empathy towards our surroundings. But in order to achieve any kind of mindful attention...isn't at least some inner silence necessary? And another logical question arises…how can we be able to find silence in this noisy life?
It’s as though, as a culture, we’ve learned to ‘mind the gaps’ so well that they’ve all but disappeared. We live in an age of incessancy, under the banner of the already heard and forgotten.
George Prochnik’s In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise.
Silence is very present in Eastern philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism. It is believed to be the key to find your inner chill and get to know yourself better. Isn´t it all about hushing up the busy mind and letting silence guide us when we meditate in yoga class?
According to a Harvard Business Review*, recent studies reveal that taking time for silence can restore the nervous system, help sustain energy, and condition our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live and work.
But eastern philosophies also tell us that meditation is not a technique but more of a state of mind in which one simply exists, without judgement, in which one doesn't identify with what they do, what they feel, or what they think.
Meditation is usually described as a state of heightened awareness that fosters the sensation of being in touch with the essential.
The question is… can we only reach inner valuable silence throughout quietness? Is there a way we can reach silence other than sitting still?
THE SURRENDER OF THE CHASE
A very intriguing fact that George Prochnik reveals in his book is that the antecedents of the word silence suggest the idea of interrupted action. The gothic verb anasilan, for instance, that means the wind dying down, and the Latin word desinere, that means ‘stop.’ However, the pursuit of silence is dissimilar from most other pursuits in that it generally begins with a surrender of the chase, the abandonment of efforts to impose our will and vision on the world. Not only is it about standing still, the pursuit of silence seems initially to involve moving a step backward from the tussle of life in order to move towards something else.
The fact is that regular activities that involve movement -like taking a conscious walk, cooking, dancing, or even tidying the bookshelves- can many times take us to a place where we simple exist and were thoughts run through our mind without judgement.
Look at what the writer Sunsan Sontag says about silence, art and contemplation:
"Contemplation, strictly speaking, entails self-forgetfulness on the part of the spectator: an object worthy of contemplation is one which, in effect, annihilates the perceiving subject...In principle, the audience may not even add its thought. All objects, rightly perceived, are already full.”
If life dissatisfaction arises from becoming so accustomed to the world that we stop perceiving its beauty and diversity, the answer may be to move more often towards inner silence, move more so the flow of our thoughts opens new perspectives, move to finally be - at least for a while- in the here and now.
In words of polish poet Wislawa Szymborska:
I misbehaved in the cosmos yesterday. I lived around the clock without questions, without surprise.
I performed daily tasks as if only that were required.
Inhale, exhale, right foot, left, obligations, not a thought beyond getting there and getting back.
The world might have been taken for bedlam, but I took it just for daily use.
No whats — no what fors — and why on earth it is — and how come it needs so many moving parts.
I was like a nail stuck only halfway in the wall or (comparison I couldn’t find).
One change happened after another even in a twinkling’s narrow span.
Yesterday’s bread was sliced otherwise by a hand a day younger at a younger table.
Clouds like never before and rain like never, since it fell after all in different drops.
The world rotated on its axis, but in a space abandoned forever.
This took a good 24 hours. 1,440 minutes of opportunity. 86,400 seconds for inspection.
The cosmic savoir vivre may keep silent on our subject, still it makes a few demands: occasional attention, one or two of Pascal’s thoughts, and amazed participation in a game with rules unknown.