By Kris Kile
Silence and solitude were two ancient spiritual disciplines that were practiced in almost every major world religion. Yet, through the centuries, as modernity took hold, they fell out of favor and practice with the vast majority of people. Today, they are making a bit of a comeback—at least in terms of being talked about and considered.
Practicing silence and solitude directly support being present in the moment. They are powerful “taming the brain” disciplines.
The world we live in is filled with perpetual motion, stimulation, and noise. It seems we have an almost insatiable drive to fill every second of every day with something, whether it be the radio in the car, music on a smartphone, games on a tablet, checking your e-mail and texts, visiting social media, watching videos, or something else. We schedule, we plan, we do, we rush from thing to thing and then drop in our beds at the end of the day, planning to do it all over again the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next. Then we plan vacations to “get away from it all” and for a week or so we change the scenery and try to relax.
When you step back and observe it, it almost seems manic. Our culture seems designed to pull us away from the benefits of silence and solitude.
To be silent is to be in a place of quiet—with no extraneous noise. Silence can include natural sounds (the wind in trees, birds, nature, your heart beating, the sound of your breathing). Just quietness. You and your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations—what you are experiencing, both internally and externally.
Silence is best accomplished in solitude. Solitude means being by yourself, doing nothing and not trying to make anything happen.
Its focus is on receptivity, not activity.
One of the most underutilized environments to enjoy silence and solitude is nature—being somewhere where human activity is absent, yet you can drink in the beauty of your natural surroundings.
Silence and solitude set the stage for RECEPTIVE learning
Our culture is almost entirely focused on ASSERTIVE learning—taking action to learn something, do something, experience something. Grab it, learn it, achieve it, go for it. That is often very useful. But, it is only half of the game of learning.
As a culture, we have almost completely abandoned RECEPTIVE learning. That is learning by doing nothing except for observing in a place of stillness and non-activity, with no felt need to do anything about what we are observing.
RECEPTIVE learning can be focused both inwardly (within) and outwardly (without).
- You can hone your inner observer by noticing what you have not noticed within your being.
- And, you can notice what you have not noticed before without—in your surroundings–by honing your willingness to be present and receptive.
Suggestion: Practice being in silence and solitude for at least five minutes today and tell us on Facebook what you noticed.