Silence the critical new super power?


I recently did a silent retreat with a small group. No speaking, no external stimulation, no reading or technology.

On the first day I thought this is not too bad and glanced at the clock and saw that only 30 minutes had passed! It was a revelation. Time had completely stopped and yet an ocean of time had opened up. It was confronting. I couldn’t fill the chasm with the usual distractions or work and play. 

In our modern harried pace we coexist daily with time’s evil twin ‘never enough time’. But the good twin ‘too much time on my hands’ I haven’t seen since childhood.

In the swirling silence so many emotions welled up for me–a smile at a happy memory, the sting of regret, the sharp stab of anger. All in my mind, as with no external stimuli – the mind can really play games.

As time passed, silence’s texture changed. From an amorphous heavy mass, to something lighter, restful even. Speaking devours enormous amounts of our cognitive load. Not speaking, freed me up to turn inwards, to process and reflect. At the end I felt cocooned in calmness and peace. 

I am now trying to adopt a daily practice of deliberate silence. First thing in the morning, about 30 minutes. A reflective space to anchor my day.

Now for a scary thought – imagine if we punctuated our days at work with silence? The difference that could make to our work, rest and productivity.

All our communication tools, techniques, and tips focus on how to say more, say it differently and that old chestnut, say it again. We never think how we might say less, or create a space for deliberate silence that allows reflection.

Even a smaller practice of pausing (which is a mini silence) can create huge disproportional impact, for example in a presentation and definitely with a story. The next time there is a silence, don’t rush to fill it. Instead savour it.

Please comment, love hearing from you.