Music is the silence between the notes.”
So though the French composer Claude Debussy.
Nowadays, TV channels, social media, newspapers and magazines insist that we pay attention to a myriad of things, from politics to entertainment. We have opportunities to fill every conscious minute with news, gossip and updates on this and that. All this noise is wearying and makes us restless.
Silence can at first feel uncomfortable. Even unpleasant. It can seem like an achingly empty space that we want to fill as quickly as possible. But if we dare stay still for a while inside that space, the silence can help us to sense a hushed music, at first faint and distant but gradually becoming more distinct. Our own innermost thoughts. Our quiet breathing. The rustling of wind in the tops of the trees, the twittering of the birds, the living swell of the sea.
“A centre of stillness surrounded by silence”
Dag Hammarskjöld wrote of how “we all have within us a centre of stillness surrounded by silence”. We may be able to find it and begin listening but only by taking a break from the everyday hum of noise. In 1957, inspired by this thought, he created and opened a meditation room in the United Nations headquarters’ building in New York.
It is almost shocking to perceive the contrast between the metropolitan clamour outside, with its shrieking sirens, attention-seeking shop displays and hurrying people, and this silent room in the heart of the UN building. The Meditation Room becomes like the crypt in a church.
“We want to bring back, in this room, the stillness which we have lost in our streets, and in our conference rooms, and to bring it back in a setting in which no noise would impinge on our imagination,” Hammarskjöld said in his speech at the inauguration of the room.
Silence as an aid to hear yourself – and others
Silence can be a way to give space and time to understand yourself, enabling you to make new strides forward in your everyday life. Silence can also offer space for others. There is a temptation to chatter this and that to fill a pause. But if we are courageous enough to wait for a while, it might lead to a peaceful moment that could initiate a true meeting of minds.
To protect the silent moment, the pauses in our lives, we must make an effort to turn down the volume of external noise.
This can take time. But perhaps silence can gradually come to serve as a resonating base that help you to hear your inner music, to see what is essential and what is not – and to move forward in a healthier way that also is right for you.
What can you do to create more silence in your daily life, in your relationships and in the way you relate to yourself?