Tips to embrace the power of silence

In a world full of noise, is it possible to accept quiet?

By Natalie Hore

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Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 1:43 PM

Have you noticed that just when you are turning in for the night, the mind decides to become its most active? According to Mark Samways, director of wellbeing at The Free Spirit Collective in Dubai, this is because our mind feels it can finally stop, pause and reflect upon a world which seems to place value on “busyness”.

With all manner of distractions available to us, it can be difficult to find yourself in silence. “It can often be scary when we are left with just our thoughts and emotions, and, therefore, many people seek to avoid the experience altogether,” Samways says.

Ironically, the world is also full of people searching for “peace and quiet” and a “break from it all”. “Many people are complaining about lack of spare time and are yet turning to media or technology to fill the void when they do get a free moment,” says Samways.

This could be likened to purchasing noise cancelling headphones just so you can listen to your music at the loudest volume setting.

In complete contrast, however, around 350,000 people a year flock into a chapel in the heart of Helsinki in Finland built with the sole intention of offering its visitors a place to calm down and have a moment of quiet. The chapel, known as the Kamppi Chapel or ‘The Chapel of Silence’, has been operating for over eight years and is incredibly popular, offering a sanctuary for self-contemplation to its visitors. Within the confines of the chapel, the world is on mute and a pin dropping seems completely out of place.

But according to Mina Lee, the founder of YogaOne UAE and a certified mindfulness meditation and yoga teacher, something magical is happening within those that embrace the tranquility and calmness, enabling them to listen inwards, often focusing on the one consistent yet very faint noise — the breath.

“By tuning into the breath, the mind begins to settle and calm down, allowing us to realise that although our thoughts, fantasies and plans are still there, they’re less demanding, and for what may be the first time, a sense of relief; that first taste of a quality of inner spaciousness,” states Lee.

“Sometimes you will encounter the unfinished business of the heart such as grief that you’ve been too busy to let yourself feel, or tears that are there, or a longing, or the creativity that’s unexpressed, or a love that you haven’t given voice to, but by paying attention to the breath and turning inwards, you can be in the present moment without judgement, pausing for a moment and cultivating a curiosity and discovery in your inner being.”

Practising mindfulness, advises Lee, is the perfect place to learn the power of steadying attention and loving awareness, which she stipulates is important to avoid acting on thoughts which have dire consequences.

Sadly, in our lives, we will often find ourselves in moments of silence that we aren’t necessarily prepared for. This could be the death of a loved one or beloved pet, a breakup or even retirement or a loss of a job, and Lee states that often we can act on negative thoughts surrounding these moments, instead of the wholesome, skilful and beneficial ones.

The brain is wired to prefer things that instantly make us feel better, rather than things that may benefit us more in the long run, and Lee suggests that embracing silence can help reduce these patterns in the brain, and this can then lead to better decision-making in our daily lives.

“By practising mindfulness, we can be present in our lives, not lost in plans for the future or reruns of the past, but fully in the moment, and there you can learn to see and work with different energies and sensitivities of your life, and then be able to respond wisely.”

This can help alleviate anxieties, fears and stresses in our lives and slow down the “what ifs” we can at times find ourselves in.

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