Last week I retreated into silence during a few days at Pendle Hill Retreat Center with meditation teachers Scott and Nancy McBride. The power of a few days away is a true gift and I’m grateful for the opportunity to sink into quiet to get clear. I’m inspired to share an excerpt on silence from my book On The Verge and a link to my latest podcast on—you guessed it—silence. Enjoy.
I’ve grown to appreciate that silence truly is golden. It settles and steadies me in a matter of minutes. I didn’t always feel this way. I used to surround myself with noise. I’d fall asleep with the television blaring, have music playing in my car and home, and talk, talk, talk until my throat was sore. Now I seek silence every day. There are two types of noise and two types of silence — outer and inner. It’s important to understand the difference.
Outer noise is the stuff you hear in your environment: talking, music, machines humming. Are you aware that there ’s noise almost everywhere you go these days? Music plays in stores, restaurants, and hotel lobbies. Beeps, gongs, and whistles sound all around us. News is broadcast 24/7. Our species is overstimulated with outer noise. We are conditioned to require constant music and entertainment. It’s become the norm.
Inner noise is the phenomenon of being in a quiet room yet feeling as though a whole crowd of people are talking to you all at once. It’s the voices in your head continually reminding you to do this or to figure out that. Inner noise is your busy mind in action, continuously bouncing around from one thought to the next and filling your mind with constant chatter.
You can stop the incessant outer noise by finding pockets of outer silence. Turn off the noisemakers such as your laptop or television. Your mind and nervous system will naturally settle down. Your car is a great place to find outer silence — this means turning off the news, music, and your phone. Drive in silence, and you turn your car into a four-wheeled Zen center. Take a few minutes of peace and quiet. Take control of outer-noise pollution in your car, office, and home, and you’ll notice a shift in your energy right away.
Inner silence cannot be found by shutting down your computer or by being alone in your bedroom. Inner silence emerges from the space beyond your busy mind. You can’t force it to emerge or make it stay. Inner silence arises from your natural state — when your mind is calm. It’s a sense of being quiet from the inside out, when your mind is steady and your body is relaxed. You can learn to access inner silence through practice.
The Primer Practices found by downloading the free On The Verge app [iTunes] [Google Play] are effective ways to quiet your inner noise and glimpse inner silence. These short practices shift you beyond your busy mind for a few moments, giving you a glimpse of your natural state. The Verge Practices Move My Body and Meet My Mind help to calm, steady, and stabilize your mind and body for a longer period of time. These powerful practices reveal your inner world, generally a busy inner world that over time will settle down and relax.
At first, there ’s anything but inner silence during your practices, and you might feel as though you’re hanging out at Grand Central Station. Eventually, you catch glimpses of the space in between thoughts, moments that may feel like the most silent silence and the most spacious space you’ve ever experienced. Synchronizing mind and body and accessing inner silence are inextricably linked; they cultivate and reinforce each other.
Inner silence leaves an indelible mark. It feels like coming home. It feels so good to be steady and stable. It feels so good to be energized and in harmony. Once you get to know inner silence, you’ll want nothing else but to live in that space all the time.