When I was twelve years old, I had to give one of the first speeches that I can remember giving.
It was my first introduction to public speaking in school and I was terrified. I still feel nervous actually with public speaking, regardless of small or large the audience may be. In my seventh grade class, that frightful day when I knew that I would have to speak in front of my entire class, I decided to be clever about it. We were given the freedom to speak about the topic of our choosing. I chose to speak about silence.
I cannot remember everything I said but I do remember that my speech started with something along the lines of, “Today I will speak about the topic of silence, and I will start with a demonstration…”. The kids burst out in laughter, however I did not. I stood there, in silence, at the front of my entire class for what seemed like hours.
Fast forward a few decades, and my relationship with the topic of silence has matured.
Yesterday, I took a walk by a frozen river while a fresh coat of snow fell gently to the ground. At one moment, I paused and heard something I had not heard for a while. It was the sound of utter and complete silence. No people walking. No cars driving. No birds chirping. No water flowing. No wind blowing. I stood there, quietly, in awe of the power of the sound of silence.
Much of nature is silent. When it snows, no matter how much, I hear silence. When the sun shines brightly, I hear silence. When the wind blows, without any trees or obstacles in its way, I hear silence.
When I was a child, the sound of silence from a parent or teacher terrified me. It meant that they were upset. As I have become older, I have learned to appreciate the power of silence.
While in conversation with someone, silence gives even more importance to what is being shared. It invites the listener to absorb fully the meaning behind the words, versus only trying to keep up.
My day is filled with empty spaces. These are the moments when I am walking, cooking, eating, cleaning, showering, meditating, walking, driving and more. They are all invitations for me to experience silence.
There is a depth to silence that is beyond the sound of words or music for me.
The sound of silence helps me connect more deeply with this present moment, as I have to pause the superficial activities that my body or mind may have been engaged with just moments before.
The sound of silence helps me connect to something larger than myself. I naturally begin to zoom out from my tiny and temporary existence, and start to gain a different perspective on life and our world.
The sound of silence encourages me to become curious. While on a quiet walk outside without any distractions, I start to notice the details, the changes and even the magic of nature and my surroundings that I was previously ignorant of.
The sound of silence supports my entry into a flow state. I do my best work, create my best writing, develop my best ideas, in silence. Simply put, I am my best self with the sound of silence.
The sound of silence is where many of the solutions to my problems are found. It is actually where I most often first acknowledge that problems exist, a needed step before I can begin to solve them.
Silence is like opening a door to a different world. Every time I step through the door of silence, I am living with the lights on. I can now see everything a little more clearly. Silence is sight. That is the power of silence.
Over the past year, the streets and skies have become quieter. The movements and interactions have lightened. The intensity of running from here to there has diminished.
The pandemic has been an invitation for me to tune more regularly into the sound of silence. While the digital distractions may have gotten louder, I have discovered that the digital world has an off switch. It is one that I am comfortable to use regularly.
In the presence of silence, I have two options. To choose to listen to it, and all that is has to say to me. Or to ignore it, perhaps because I know what it has to say to me.
The truth is that silence is not very silent. If I listen closely, there is much for me to hear.
I now encourage you to take a few moments, right now, to tune into the sound of silence.
Your mind may object, and try to convince you that you have more important things to do. However, I believe that the most important thing you can do right now is to listen to what the sound of silence may have to say to you.