Yesterday it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. Everything was covered in white and there was silence. Such a blessing. Silence is one of those things that makes a snowy day or night so peaceful.
We get so used to the everyday noise that is constantly bombarding us, that we don’t notice the stress it can cause on a subtle or dramatic level. The contrast of the silence of freshly fallen snow brings a relief from the background noise we have grown so accustomed to. Traffic, snow blowers, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, office chatter and even our own inner chatter cause background noise that is wreaking havoc on our nervous system, endocrine system and even our cardiovascular system.
Studies being done by the World Health Organization and other organizations are finding that noise acts as a “nonspecific biologic stressor eliciting reactions that prepare the body for a fight or flight response. For this reason, noise can trigger both endocrine and autonomic nervous system responses that affect the cardiovascular system and thus may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.” (1)
Did you know one of the greatest healers is silence? It calms our sympathetic nervous system which in turn allows the parasympathetic nervous system to function properly. Yoga encourages us to find silence in many ways. By shifting our focus from the outer world to our inner world we can actually tune out much of the noise around us. Taking this focus and bringing it to the breath, not only helps us to breathe more fully, but also helps block out the background noise and replace it with the soft, almost silent, sound of the breath.
We can create an environment conducive to silence by turning off our cell phones, computers, televisions, and even music, helping us to delve inward. Letting go of judgement helps to quiet the subconscious mind creating an inner peace. Walking in the woods surrounded by the quiet sounds of nature is a great way to relax the mind. Restorative yoga poses invite silence by allowing gravity to do the work of opening our physical bodies which leads to a relaxed mental and emotional state.
Deep sleep is essential to good health, and the practice of meditation is like a concentrated sleep generating an inner source of energy. After meditating people typically feel full of energy and yet peaceful. “Meditation increases circulation in beginning meditators by 30%, and in experienced meditators by as much as 65%. It has endorsed by the NIH as effective for the relief of chronic pain. Chronic pain sufferers experience a reduction in symptoms of 50% or more.”(2) Originally the asanas (poses) of yoga were created to prepare the mind and body for meditation that brings us to a place of sacred silence.
When a man knows the solitude of silence, and feels the joy of quietness, he is then free from fear and he feels the joy of the dharma.
Notice if silence makes you uncomfortable or bored. If so, it is even more important to practice silence. Try being silent with a friend or partner. It can be incredibly difficult, but when we are truly comfortable with ourselves and with the other person, it can be an amazing form of communication. Try being silent when you eat. Notice if your food is more tasty and you feel more satisfied after your meal.
Silence is golden and its real treasures are a healthy body, calm mind, and inner contentment.