The Power of Silence

“It is easy and natural to watch silently as waves ebb and flow on a beach, or to lean over a gate to see the sun go down. Just stopping talking opens up a world that was familiar to us before we learned to speak. Giving place to a state of no words should be as simple and friendly as that.

Yet, as adults, we commonly find difficulty in doing without words. We have used – and misused – words for a long time. As soon as we became conscious of the use of words we started to overuse them. We learnt to use words to compete for attention, to call out in alarm when there was no need, to demand by repeating and nagging and insisting. Later on we can become dependent upon that sort of continual noise; some of the most lasting memories of school are to do with the frustration of being told to ‘shut up’. In adulthood, sounds and noises become so constant that we feel uneasy and even outraged when they stop, and our feelings about silence can be negative. If the continuous noise of a machine suddenly stops we think of danger; when silence falls on a group we say it’s ‘eerie’. As very young children we may have been happy with silence, but aswe grow older we tend to build up the idea that it issomething to beavoided.

But when silence is willed and wanted, then it sings.”

Wanda Nash, People Need Stillness