IN A noisy world, the value of silence is often lost on society.
From the noise of incessant chatter and motion, to the noise of images flickering endlessly, the monkeys in your brain, to the virtual noise that continuously invades our lives through mobile devices, there is scant room left for absolute, purifying silence.
When you do catch a moment to enjoy a spell of silence, its effects can be gratifying or unnerving.
Silence as a phenomenon, manifesting in several facets, has a huge impact on human life.
Similarly, the impact of meditation — an aspect of Yogic exercises — on the human brain is significant. Explaining this aspect, Dr. A.V. Srinivasan, President, Indian Academy of Neuroscience said that a research performed on Tibetan monks in 2011 in New York proved that there is an increase in the cell development in the brain during the process of meditation.
“When there is inner silence, rewiring of the brain takes place. In deep silence, it is possible to even transfer thoughts,” he said.
Silence has a major role to play in the management of the Self. The saints across various denominations of religions practice it as a mind drill to get insight and to strengthen the mind power. Hindu saints are known to go into silence with deep prayers. Meditation is practiced by individuals today as a form of exercising the mind.
So, what is silence?
Taking it beyond the superficial dictionary definition, it’s a phenomenon that is intrinsically woven into our lives. If you make a list of various facets of silence it could run like this:
• Silence of emotions.
• Metaphysical silence — going into spiritual silence searching for the Truth of life.
• Silence in management of the Self — an attempt to rejuvenate and refresh the mind.
• The silence of the universe. Stars, the Sun and the galaxy keep moving in rhythm in total silence. Eugene Cernan, the American astronaut who walked on the moon was overwhelmed by the silence around him when he saw the earth from space.
• Strategic silences deployed by human beings to achieve certain impacts.
• The silence of the people in a democracy who speak only through their votes.
• The silence that each individual meets in old age and the final end.
• The silence of Nature — the mountains and the forests, the rivers and the myriad formations of Nature. Beyond the external sounds of the wind and the water, the poignant silence seem to deliver a significant oration. Many individuals experience the Divine in those silences.
• Silence of holy places. The unified focus of devotees in places of worship manifesting in their silence.
• Silence of tech devices, which transport the noises of your mind.
The list goes on.
When two individuals are in love, often silence replaces words. As a language, it is a powerful tool in conveying emotions — love, anger, grief or bonding in any relationship.
In the Tamil version of Ramayana, the Hindu epic, the impact of the romantic moment when Rama and Seetha, the main characters in the epic look at each other for the first time, is captured in just one sentence. “She looked at him and him, at her.”
A Multitude Of Emotions
The poet leaves it to our imagination to understand the emotional union of the minds of the two individuals.
In extreme sorrow too, words fail and silence takes over. A moment of silence can carry messages that even thousands of words cannot.
Shakespeare’s Othello uses silence as a weapon for the character Iago. Towards the end of the play, when his plot to destroy Othello is over, the villain chooses to remain silent. He does not give any explanation for all his manipulations. When Othello asks through Cassio why Iago did what he did, Iago says that he will not answer anything and that then onwards he would not speak a word. While he was scheming and plotting his move, words, strategically used, were his weapons. But in the end with his motive accomplished, he picks up silence as his tool to wield power over the people.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are people who find it difficult to articulate their thoughts. In such situations, they remain silent. This kind of silence has the danger of lending itself for misinterpretations as like or dislike; assent or dissent.
Be it in individual lives or on a larger gambit of the socio-political scenario, observing silence on issues that matter is expected to bring the desired effects. In a democracy for instance, though the public remain silent, they speak through their votes in elections to seat the government they want.
In organizations, silence sometimes is a tool used by the superiors in the hierarchy to get certain results from the subordinates. And vice versa when there is dissent among the workforce. Political leaders could use silence to express their consent or dissent to certain global socio-political happenings.
Sometimes there are glib talks on the social canvas. People “talk” without speaking; people hear without listening,” said the American music duo Paul Simon and Garfunkel in their famous 1964 album, Sounds Of Silence. Interestingly, Paul Simon locked himself in the bathroom and turned off the lights to concentrate to write the song!
Silence does enhance creativity.
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Silence And Business
The power of Silence is harnessed as a sound business strategy too.
When you work all day, your mind could easily be muddled and solutions could be hard to come by. Dadi Janaki, the head of Brahma Kumaris, a spiritual organization based in India was once asked, “If you had to say just one thing to the busy executive, what would that be?”
Pat came her reply, “Silence”.
She went on to explain. “Because people are working all day, long hours and not able to be quiet, they become stressed. They don’t give time to themselves to sit quietly, get to know themselves, develop values in their lives. I would say to such a person, you have spent your life achieving power, but did you empower yourself?
“Socializing, partying doesn’t give you a happy life. The basis of happiness is not a big house, big car or when people approve of me. I do the right thing and that gives me happiness. You should be able to sit silently in peace. Don’t say you are busy all the time.
“You waste time in restless thinking, in jealousy and in worry. Loss and profit are part of business. When there is profit, you are high. When there is loss, you go completely to pieces. So I say to you, don’t make yourself dance in this way. Take yourself into silence, a few minutes every hour.
“When we use the word Silence, we go inside naturally,” she explained.
For her, meditation is not some mantra. It doesn’t even require any special way of sitting. With deep silence, the mind receives rest which creates patience and peace. In that state of mind, there is a surge of creativity. And this aspect of mind has been well established in scientific researches.
As the Chinese saying goes: “In silence and stillness comes wisdom.”
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