Silence is golden. Is it?

What is silence?


According to Cambridge’s English dictionary, silence has a number of meanings, among others are:

  • A period without any sound; complete quiet;
  • A state of not speaking or writing or making noise;
  • A state of refusing to talk about something or answering questions, or a state of not communicating.


Two questions popped up in my mind. Is it possible to be silent in our lives these days? How come silence is so precious that it is golden?


I don’t need to tell you how fast our world moves these days and how that impacts our lives on daily basis. Sometime I looked back on how the world was 10 years ago and I’d never had dreamt of such pace that we’re in today then. Inconceivable.


What comes into our lives is an immense amount of data, from many directions; at any time we open ourselves to it. We have, at least, 5 senses to receive and send data.

The challenge today is to filter, process, and manage data, no longer to search for it.


Combination of fast speed and immense amount of data in our lives means frequent data overload.


How does this play out on daily basis?
We had conversations that we often couldn’t even recall. We attended meetings where we forgot what had been agreed and why. We repeated ourselves to the same people over and over. We didn’t remember to whom we had shared something with. Sometime, we don’t know what we already know or have. And this is just to name a few.


Overload. Redundancy. Repetitive. These are some of the downside outcomes of having a combination of speed and immense amount of data.


This is definitely far less than being neither efficient nor effective.


We are more disconnected from others and ourselves as we are surrounded by more data in our live. What a paradox!


In 2011, World Health Organization report called noise pollution a “modern plague,” concluding that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.”


I came across this fascinating article titled “This is your brain on silence” – I’d recommend you to read this as this highlights a number or researches about silence, from the perspective of noise.

One information stood out to me in particular and I am quoting it here:

“In 1859, the British nurse and social reformer Florence Nightingale wrote, “Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well.” Every careless clatter or banal bit of banter, Nightingale argued, can be a source of alarm, distress, and loss of sleep for recovering patients.

Surprisingly, recent research supports some of Nightingale’s zealous claims. In the mid 20th century, epidemiologists discovered correlations between high blood pressure and chronic noise sources like highways and airports. Later research seemed to link noise to increased rates of sleep loss, heart disease, and tinnitus”.


You get the gist. This is just from noise and noise is everywhere – TV, radio, music, social media, podcast, etc., on our finger tips, not even needing going to the shop to get it. Then we have chatters around us. Everyone has opinions and these days, we feel freer to share them, regardless that we’re not asked.


How about visual overload?

An article authored by Rebecca MacMillan of University of Texas about image overload highlights some psychological effects people experience being overloaded by images.

“As we snap, store and communicate with thousands of images on our phones and computers, a number of researcher and theorists are already beginning to point to some of the unintended consequences of this “image overload,” which range from heightened anxiety to memory impairment.”


Photos on the phone are not the only visuals. Billboards, magazines, newspapers, TV, our possessions, etc. They are everywhere.


What is real, what is not? What is relevant, what is not? What is important, what is not? What is useful, what is not? What gives us pleasure, what does not?


Yes, the plot thickens. The points above are only covering 2 information sensory receivers. There are a few more.


Is it possible to alienate noise and visual completely? Hardly, I’d say. Not all of us live in recluse areas and not operating using technology we have today.


What we can do is to experience inner silence regularly; to clear out the inner noise and visuals within us, as such we are, in that moment of time, being in the present, connecting stronger and deeper with ourselves. In turn, this will help us connect deeper with others.


It is quite evident that the more frequent we interrupt the data overload, the better our quality of life can be. I’d label the interrupting act as “Silent Time Practice”.


Here are some examples of what you could do in your “Silent Time Practice”:

  • Breathing deeply, regularly, for a few minutes.

At least 5 counts inhale and 5 counts exhale.

If required, put a reminder on your agenda/phone so you take time to do this.


  • Mindful walking/jogging

It means walking/jogging with the intent to feel your body. No music, no phone, no chatter. Focus on your breathing and feel the sensation in your body as you take one step after another. 


  • Automatic writing

Grab some sheets of paper. Take a long deep breath for a few times. If you want, you can close your eyes and start writing whatever comes out of your mind. Let it all out. Don’t think, don’t question, just follow whatever streams out of your mind and move it to the paper. Do this for a few pages. Upon finishing, take another long deep breathe and read back what is written, if you can.


  • Painting/Drawing/Sketching


  • Meditation


  • Praying


  • Extended silent time

It can be half a day, 1 full day, 3 days, 10 days, consisting of all the above activities and more.

Vipassana is an example of an extended of silent time with self.


The point of the above exercises is to breathe deeper and slower while doing them, to stay in and feel your body and to allow what comes up to come up as is, in the present moment. No judging, no arguing, just acknowledge it. You can say to yourself: “I hear you. I feel you. I see you”. Let these thoughts float and dissipate after.

When they keep lingering, note them down and attend to them at a different time. Processing emotions need focused attention.


Regardless how long and how often you do a Silent Time Practice, here are some benefits of it:


In silence, you feel your feelings and hear your thoughts louder and clearer. When you listen without judgment, you figure out sooner what matters most for you. Then you can let go the rest.


More space and energy within to experience new things

We are sophisticated machines that need purging. The more often we purge, the better. In silence, we can easily acknowledge our thoughts and feelings. Only few require follow-ups. As our mind purges and lets go or archives things that are not relevant for us anymore, it allows creative juice within us to flow.



Wisdom is one of the most powerful assets for anyone to be resilient in life. Wisdom is not shaped by the number of years one has lived, but by how quickly one learnt from their experiences.

Silent Time Practice is helping us in detaching ourselves from the stickiness of situations. Such act allows us to do a reflection/contemplation, which means transforming experiences into something with a truthful meaning. Truth always brings out inner peace.


Improved physical and emotional well being

Dr. Herbert Benson, a professor of Mind/Body medicine at Harvard Medical School, pioneered mind-body research, focusing on stress and the relaxation response in medicine. In his research, the mind and body are one system, in which meditation can play a significant role in reducing stress responses.

He introduced the term relaxation response as a scientific alternative for meditation.

According to him, relaxation response is the ability of the body to induce decreased activity of muscle and organs. It is an opposite reaction to the fight-or-flight response. With Robert Keith Wallace, he observed that relaxation response reduced metabolism, rate of breathing, heart rate, and brain activity.


I enjoy integrating “Silent Time Practice” regularly in my life. It started out with 30 minutes of silent time everyday and it has expanded to 1 hour daily in addition to 1-3 days of silent time monthly.


What I realize is that integrating a “Silent Time Practice” requires some discipline and practice over time. There is no one recipe of which practice is good. You can decide. It is your life. What matters is to give it a chance and experience how this uplifts you.


So, is it true that “Silence is Golden”?

Yes, indeed, and to be precise, Silent time is golden.