A few weeks ago I wrote about the blessing of silence, meaning “quietude” as opposed to the “silencing of voices.” Rebecca Solnit, in her most recent collection of essays entitled The Mother of All Questions, notes that silence is crucially different from quietude. The latter speaks to the absence of noise – which is sought – while the former speaks to the absence of voice, which is too often imposed.
Little did I know that the Friday before my last post on this topic, the Harvard Business Review had published an article entitled, “The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time.” My colleague Barb Gibson sent along the HBR article which began with a quote from writer Ta-Nehisi Coates who argued that serious thinkers and writers should get off Twitter, in a call to “get beyond the noise.” It isn’t just writers who suggest that periods of silence are valuable. Medical researchers have found that “taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our mind to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us live, work, and lead.” Real sustained silence, the kind that “facilitates clear and creative thinking, quiets inner chatter as well as the outer.”
The HBR article provided some practical steps to facilitate silence, including using five minutes at the end of meetings for a period of silence, taking the occasional afternoon off for a silent walk in nature, and going on a media fast for several hours or a full day.
Cultivating silence can increase our chances of “encountering novel ideas” and discerning “weak signals” from the constant verbal agenda that goes on in our head. It isn’t easy, but cultivating silence in our lives can be done with some creativity and commitment.
Many celebrate this season as one of renewal, rebirth, and redemption. Quietude can be a great way to focus on those themes in meaningful ways.
Have a great week.
More to come…