Why We Need Space for Silence in a Noisy World

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

A guest post by Mark Owen-Ward of Energy Applied

Noise

It’s everywhere.

As sound it presents itself as constant traffic noise or as the television in the background. It’s the beeping alarm that wrenches us awake to start another day. Throughout the day we will be assaulted by our “really cool” ringtone, by text messages and email alerts.

Visually, noise shows up as cluttered road signs, as the hundreds of magazines in the newsagent, or in the chaos of retail outlets where every square inch has been assessed and utilized to make us buy.

We are bombarded by smells and aromas from dawn to dusk, from exhaust fumes to petro-chemical based colognes and aftershaves, from the plastics in our cars to the air-fresheners in our homes. Most of the time, we don’t even smell these odours.

In our minds, as multi-tasking and demanding quick thinkers, we are drowning in a noisy torrent of our own thoughts, desires and emotions.

Noise is an indiscriminant pollutant: hypnotic but toxic. A life full of noise is a life without relief or space to simply be.

Silence

Breathe.

Stop for a while.

Give yourself permission to just sit down and be still for a few minutes.

Silence is so much more than “the condition of being or keeping still and silent.” We need silence to hear ourselves and make our own choices.

In the twenty first century we unwittingly choose noise at every opportunity, inviting it into our lives and into our heads; no wonder one third of the population needs anti-depressants at some time.

We need silence to bring us back to the present moment, to the here and now. We need silence in order to reflect on what has recently passed so we can avoid repeating mistakes. We need stillness to recharge and to relax and to free our mind from the constant stream of desires that propel us to a future where our life doesn’t yet exist.

We need silence to allow creativity to flourish and to realize our dreams. In crushing the necessary peace needed for imagination and recuperation, we crush our potential.

We need silence to know who we are. Enslaved to noise, we can only focus on escape and the future, looking forward to becoming the person we believe we might be.

Ten steps for bringing silence into our noisy world


Becoming aware of the dominance of noise is the first step to bringing more silence, stillness and peace into your life. The benefits of silence are real, no matter how small the periods you can manage:

  1. Be aware that you need daily time for silence and stillness.
  2. Start your day in silence by changing your alarm from a buzz or a beep to a radio and set it to a classical radio station.
  3. Start your day earlier and give yourself twenty minutes with no agenda. Just wake early and be still and quiet. If it feels strange to begin with just relax and breathe with it – the rewards are worth the effort.
  4. Leave the radio or TV off in the morning – there are many other ways you can catch up on the news during the day.
  5. Pay attention to each thing that you do as you do it. For example, as you shower be aware of the sound of the water and the feeling of the water on your skin.
  6. Go perfume free for the day – notice your sense of smell today. Without your own personal olfactory arsenal blitzing your delicate nasal passages you will notice more smells today (good and bad).
  7. Listen on your way to work. If you drive, leave the radio off – if you take a train, try the journey without reading a newspaper or listening to your ipod. Instead pay attention to your surroundings and really see what is there. Why not try a different route?
  8. Don’t eat lunch at your desk, go out instead and sit under a tree. Look up at the leaves and listen to the sound of the leaves moving. You only need five to ten minutes to commune with nature. Pay attention to the colour of the leaves and the texture of the bark; touch the bark and feel the roughness of it and contrast that with all the smooth textures that you are used to in your usual environments.
  9. Do something different this evening; leave the TV switched off. Try walking around your neighbourhood on a route you’ve not travelled before – introduce yourself to some neighbours you’ve never spoken to before.
  10. Clear the clutter from your bedroom and spend some time in there in quietness. Write down your thoughts from the day and reflect on what you have noticed. Sleep without reading first, even if it takes longer.

Making space for silence in your life is a choice that will reward you with a clearer mind, protection from stress and a good physical recharge. Find space for silence in little pockets throughout the day – you will find that the more mindful you become, the more space for silence you create.

Mark Owen-Ward is a wellness coach, personal trainer, minimalist, photographer, and father of three. His passion lies in helping people develop new habits for simple wellness which he writes about at his blog, Energy Applied.

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Note from Mary Jaksch: I’m proud to announce that Mark Owen-Ward is a member of the A-List Blogger Club where Leo Babauta and I shape the top bloggers of tomorrow.

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{ 37 Comments }

  1. Jean Sarauer says:

    Thank you for sharing this message, Mark. Silence helps me start my day peacefully, and brief moments of silence help me reconnect with what matters throughout the day. Even so, you gave me new ideas to bring awareness into my life–especially with the idea of going perfume free for a day. Love that!
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..7 Signs That Granny Hijacked Your Blog =-.

  2. […] the latest Energy Applied guest post, “why we need space for silence” at […]

  3. Alison Kerr says:

    Great post Mark. Here is my favorite part, “You only need five to ten minutes to commune with nature.” Five minutes will do if that’s all you have, but of course I’d recommend more!

    It’s absolutely true that we need silence. When I’m outside in my garden, moments without local lawnmowers, traffic, or kids shouting are very precious to me. There is nothing more beautiful than the sound of the wind rustling in the grass and trees and the birds calling to each other.

    And sometimes when I hibernate my computer, and silence descends, I feel myself breathing out a big sigh of relief.
    .-= Alison Kerr´s last blog ..S-mores and Sleeping Bags Beat Hawaii =-.

  4. Excellent advice, Mark! I really like how you point out that noise isn’t just sounds. The visual clutter and multi-tasking and everything else…absolutely. It can feel like we’re bombarded with stimuli and overwhelmed and we might not even realize it but it affects us in so many ways.

    Great post.
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..Of geese and grisly murders =-.

  5. Jay Kaushal says:

    Thanks Mark for such a great insight.

    Being a web designer and developer I know the value of silence as I do creative work. The best sites I have designed so far were first wireframed in my mind while I was away from computer. I live in a beautiful town of North India surrounded by Mountains. Whenever I start a new project first thing I do is to go to a nearby village away from the main road and just sit in silence and think. My sketch book is with me and I get instant ideas to draw the wireframes. Earlier I used to do it on computer directly and kept on staring on the screen with no ideas coming.

    Recently I started keeping my mobile on silent mode and what a relief it is. Instead of my mobile telling me to pick it up by beeping all day as mails arrive, I now decide when to pick it up at my own pace and time 🙂

    When you are alone you are with yourself i.e. your soul. And your soul is the best friend and driving force in you life. To hear your inner voice you need silence inside which is very difficult to achieve with blah blah going all around us.

    A very though provoking article indeed 🙂

  6. The only reason I like my Father gone is that it is quiet in the house. He yelled so many times. There was no silence because I think he feared it.
    .-= Bert K. Badrinath´s last blog ..New Theme: Modularity Lite =-.

  7. Joshua Noerr says:

    This was a great post. I think one of the reasons so much noise is always going on is that people are afraid of the silence to some extent. The goblins of the mind start to wander in and the thinking process starts; and that quite frankly just scares some folks.

  8. Aileen says:

    Mark, you give me great insight with this post! I’m not sure that I’ve thought of noise as visual clutter and unnatural scents – it makes sense to call it noise as it distracts us from organic life. – and although we may live in loud busy area with traffic sounds, cluttered signs, endless ring tones, we can choose to find silence and connect to it.

    Your ten steps are great!

  9. Scott McIntyre says:

    Mark,

    Silence is such a precious commodity in today’s busy world- but it’s something that can be quite scarey when we actually get some.

    In dealing with other people, periods of silence can be quite awkward. We usually feel the need to fill the space without words with chat, even when it’s mind-numbingly pointless banter! It’s the sign of strong relationships when people can be comfortable together noiselessly.

    I find it a key part of my day when I turn off the tv, pc and other buzzes on the senses and tune into quietness. It’s a time to relax and, strangely enough, an opportunity to be at my most productive. Silence is the perfect fuel for deep thinking and creativity.

    Your tips are helpful in guiding us to actively build quietness into our daily routine – and give our lives a welcome sound of silence…

    ” ” 🙂

  10. Manal says:

    Brilliant simple advice Mark.

    I can’t think of anything else to add except maybe for someone to try meditation. It is a good way to build stamina for being still and silent without fidgeting and wanting to go make some noise 🙂

    Thanks for the wonderful steps. Your advice is pretty close to what I focus on.
    .-= Manal´s last blog ..Start Today: 7 Simple Tips to Organize Your Space =-.

    • @Manal, thanks Manal – I agree that meditation is an excellent idea and I view it as a next step after getting used to periods of silence – I know so many people who, in their busy lives, make no space for silence at all. On the contrary, they crave noise and attention and relish the hectic pace of their lives – of course it’s not sustainable! thanks for your thoughtful comments.
      .-= mark owen-ward´s last blog ..am I having a midlife crisis? =-.

  11. Elana says:

    Silence. I woke up this morning c r a v i n g it and have planned a chunk of it for tonight. Your opening quote says it all. In my life silence creates the space my being needs for stillness. Then I can access the wisdom and peace that is lying underneath all of the mental noise and clutter. A great post and a great reminder to us all. Thank you. : )

  12. Dave Rowley says:

    Hi Mark,

    What a wonderful post. I love this list–everything on there is so simple and manageable, I can see myself actually doing most of them.

    My body becomes all tensed up whenever I spend time in a noisy environment, even if I’m able to block the noise out of my conscious mind. It requires a real effort to remove myself from noise at times.

    I especially liked tip number 8. My favourite place to get some silence is my garden–the trees seem to soak up a lot of the noise around us, but still let in the re-juvinating sounds like bird calls or the wind rustling the leaves.

    thanks for the great post,
    Cheers,
    .-= Dave Rowley´s last blog ..Sleepy Buddha =-.

  13. Love this post Mark. I finally gave up having to have noise in the background all the time a few years ago. Driving with the radio off – you notice much more. Working with no music, I tend to get a little more done and really am more creative at that. Now if I could just get my 15 year old…
    .-= Occasionallyserene´s last blog ..Mark Twain – Annoyance =-.

  14. Hi Mark, I really enjoyed this post, and your tips are fantastic. I use my phone as an alarm clock, and I switched it from a ringtone to vibrate a while back so that I could wake more gently. And, I ditched perfume a long time ago when I realized it was causing headaches – it was like the final straw in a constant assualt on my senses. I’ll now try some of your other tips, especially getting out at lunch!
    .-= Claire – Gratitude Connection´s last blog ..Today I’m grateful for… =-.

  15. Katie says:

    Great post, Mark. I love how you connect our senses to noise. Noise comes at us from all directions, impacting us inside and out. It’s so important to switch off literally and figuratively. Well done and it’s great to see you spread your terrific writing to Goodlife Zen.
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..A Slacker’s Guide to Getting Things Done =-.

  16. Wm says:

    Thank you, what you wrote is what I need in my life at the moment. Bless you.

  17. Hi Mark, This is an excellent post on a topic that I also have strong feelings about. I have little tolerance for noise. I fact I almost never watch TV, and when I do it’s hard to tell which is worse–the advertisements or the programs.

    I love walking and bird-watching, hearing just the sound of the birds and an occasional car. I’m fortunate now to be living very near a beach on Chesapeake Bay. I walk there often with only the sounds of birds, waves rolling in, and the wind blowing.

    When I drive any distance though, I often listen to classical music. It helps me to focus on something other than the too fast, too close, NASCAR-wannabe style of driving around here.
    .-= Madeleine Kolb´s last blog ..Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Games =-.

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  19. Enjoyed this post – always find it helpful to be reminded to make time and space for silence. Thank you.

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  23. robert villarin says:

    hi,!
    honestly,silence is really important for me,in order to relax and fell good. when i was a kid, i always encounter noisy things happen in my life,! one of them is during when my parents got a problem with there relationship.
    thank you so much, for the very nice article you had done.
    more power!
    good luck!111!….

  24. […] are people so uncomfortable with silence? And why do they feel the need to talk all the time.  So often people feel compelled to speak when […]

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