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A Deafening Silence:
Why the Modern Mind Can't Keep Still... and What to Do About It
Why the Modern Mind Can't Keep Still... and What to Do About It

The benefits of silence and an empty mind are well known: less stress, clearer thinking - studies have even pointed to a strengthened immune system and better heart health. Silence is something to welcome. It's nurturing and refreshing. It offers a unique feeling of peace.

(Article continued below.)

So why are so many people doing all they can to avoid silence?

Silence can really be a frightening thing. There are times when silence is unnerving, humiliating or just plain boring. If you are speaking in front of a crowd and you lose your train of thought, the silence is torture. If you're in the midst of a crowd of strangers and there is no one you can talk to, the silence can be very lonely. The silence of walking down a dark alleyway late at night can be petrifying.

In addition, not everyone feels comfortable in his or her own skin. The idea of spending quiet time alone is anathema to such people. They fill their days with friends, family and coworkers. They do everything possible to avoid being by themselves. Eating a meal alone is an agonizing concept. Spending a whole evening with nothing but their own thoughts is even worse - give them a television and a remote control, at least!

Silence is golden? Not necessarily.

Quiet time is not always quality time. It's not so much silence that is important as what you are doing with yourself in the quietude. Or, more specifically, what you're doing with your thoughts. What is going on inside your head is what determines whether silence is your friend or your enemy.

It's not really silence itself that gets to us; rather, it's our inner chatter that keeps us from appreciating quiet time. The mind has been a busy and active instrument for eons. Meditation would never have been invented if there hadn't been a need to train the mind to be still. But these days, between the Internet, television and full schedules, our thoughts are more than mere whirlwinds - they're tempests. Even those of us who yearn for some quiet time alone are hard pressed to locate a few free minutes. We need to make sure that any silent time we get is also quality time.

Our biggest enemy to appreciating silence is precisely inner chatter. The mind thrives on stimulation. That's why it gets so busy when we try to have a few moments of silence. Because the mind is not being fed with sights and sounds from the outside, it creates its own food. Inner chatter rushes in to fill the void left by the absence of other stimuli. Disjointed thoughts, memories and words spring up, seemingly out of nowhere. Our subconscious plays tricks with our psyche. Every bad thought we've ever had about ourselves (or were told by others) comes back to mock us. Instead of silence, there's a cacophonous noise inside our heads. If we ever want to experience true, refreshing silence, we need to teach the mind how to be still.

Next page >> Training the Mind to Understand Silence

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