In today’s busy world it’s very rare that we get to experience moments of silence. Thanks to our smartphones and tablets, we can text, email, talk, watch TV, surf the internet or listen to music every minute of the day, no matter where we are in the world. And while this makes us feel very connected, it also leads to a lot of stress. Sometimes we cannot get a moment’s peace!
That’s why I was interested to read about new research conducted by an Australian researcher, Dr Ramesh Manocha, which suggests that the most effective way to combat modern stress is not just to meditate or practise positive thinking, but to completely empty the mind of thoughts for at least 10 minutes a day.
Indeed Dr Manocha claims that this ‘mental silence’ technique, which is based on a practice called Sahaja Meditation, has helped people cope with many different problems, ranging from asthma to severe attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder in children. Pretty impressive stuff, don’t you think?
This prompted me to look at my own life, and made me realise that I always have the TV or the radio on providing some sort of stimulation or background noise, and I invariably have a constant stream of emails or text popping up on my phone. I decided it was time to embrace more silence in my life in a bid to see if it soothed my stress levels. Here are some ways to do this.
Put aside some time each day for being silent – even if it’s just five or 10 minutes. Switch off your mobile phone, turn off the TV, computer and radio and make sure no one will disturb you. Find somewhere comfortable to sit and just absorb the silence. It will no doubt feel very strange at first and you will probably find your mind being filled with chattering thoughts – this is what Buddhists call “the Monkey Mind”. But this is fine – just acknowledge the chatter rather than trying to force your mind to quieten, and let it go. The more you practise this technique, the easier it will be to still your mind.
Immerse yourself in nature
One of the best ways to enjoy some quiet time is to go out for a walk in the countryside. Apart from the sound of the birds or perhaps some fellow walkers, you are sure to catch a few moments of silence. Head off to your local woods or find a quiet spot by a river. If you live near some hills or mountains, why not go for a hike? Don’t be tempted to listen to music or check your emails while you’re out – switch that phone off! Once you’ve found a quiet spot, sit and listen to the sounds of nature for a few minutes. The singing of the birds or the rushing of a waterfall can be a real tonic for the soul.
Start the day with silence
An ideal time to embrace silence is first thing in the morning, before you become too immersed in the thoughts of the day. If you normally switch on the radio or the TV while eating your breakfast, try sitting and eating in silence for a change. I have begun doing this and I’ve found it to be a great way to ground myself before the day ahead. Or if you struggle with this, why not read a book that you find uplifting and inspiring? It will help you to start the day on a positive note.
Go on retreat
This last option is perhaps more extreme, but I thought I’d include it anyway! If you really like the idea of embracing silence, then you might want to go on a silent retreat. These programmes last from anywhere between a few days to several months at a time. Many offer organised programmes lead by spiritual teachers, who will guide you through the process and help you with any problems you encounter.
So, as you can see, there are plenty of benefits to be had from turning off the phone and the TV, and simply enjoying the silence!