The key aim of this research paper is to draw attention to the importance of silence in general, for students in particular. Thus, the introductory part of this research is devoted to the definition of silence and its important in our noisy world. The second section focus on the key powers of silence as located by the Irish writer “Tony Cuckson”, the importance of silence for students, how could we improve our relationship with silence? And examples of when can we use silence. Finally the third part consists of the analysis of the questionnaire data and summarizing the key ideas of the research.
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What does silence mean?
Literally speaking, the word silence comes from the Latin word silens meaning to be still, quiet, or at rest. In English, it still maintains some of these meaning as most modern dictionaries define silence as the condition or quality of being or keeping still and silent, the absence of sounds, stillness or as a period of time without speech or noise.
However depending only on these definitions we just learn silence’s first fundamental sense. Hence the silence is more than the state of being silent; entire absence of sound or absolute stillness. The silence, this research paper is concerned about, is the silence that enhances concentration, promotes meditation and allows us to be in touch with our “inner”. In other words, the silence that has the power to get people to think and to act.
The word silence has become associated in our minds with passivity boring and inactivity. Moreover, we see silence as intrinsically dangerous, anti-social or abnormal. We fear and hate silence and we do everything possible to avoid it. In her book “A Book of Silence “, Sara Maitland stated*:
“instant and constant verbal communication is experienced not so much as a pleasure, but as a necessity. Background music, even in shopping malls where there is already a great deal of noise, so that no one can actually hear the music, is ubiquitous. The length of an acceptable silent pause on the radio has been reduced steadily over the last decade. Silence in public places, like libraries or churches, is increasingly considered oppressive rather than valuable. The silence of mourning is being replaced by cheering”.
In this statement, Sara Maitland has tried to draw our attention to our strange fear-hate relationship with silence. She gives us some habits that we unconsciously used to do in the everyday life to avoid silence.
Sara Maitland has also noticed that people try to fill the void of silence with needless chatter, with TV, with Music, with noise of some kind. She noticed that Silence has become disconcerting and make people feel uncomfortable and alone, that’s why -according to Sara Maitland- the world is filled with TV’s that have been left on when nobody is watching it, for just a background noise.
Yet people forget that the great forces, by which we live, are silent. The vast immensity of space is silent, because sound waves, unlike light or radio waves, cannot travel through a vacuum. Gravity electricity, the warmth of sunlight, the turning of the tides are all silent. Organic growth, life itself, the division of cells is silent. Society just forgets about these facts, Sara added.
To sum up we could say that we hate or fear silence because we do not perceive its true meaning. Silence is not a mere absence of sounds or noises, it is more than that. Silence is a natural phenomenon that could be a source of creative energy that we should all use and benefit from it rather than simply avoiding it.
*Sara Maitland is an English writer. Born in 1950, she grew up in Galloway, studied at Oxford University and currently tutors on the Distance Learning MA in creative writing for Lancaster University and is the Mentor Co-ordinator for Crossing Borders. She has undertaken writer residencies at HMP Ashwell and at Lincoln Cathedral
The importance of silence in a restless world (noise pollution)
It is obviously clear that we are living in noisy word. Unwanted sounds and noises pursue us everywhere we go. In the street, restaurants, supermarkets and even in the places where silence is considered as a necessity like schools and hospitals are not exceptions. From the early morning we step out home till we come back, we encounter variety of terribly noises.
Our lives nowadays tend to be so busy that we have become accustomed to a constant barrage of tasks, inputs, and general noise. How often do we come home only to turn on the T.V. just so we can have something going on in the background? We used to not esteem the value of silence in our lives.
Mike Moore* has described this phenomenon in his book ‘Living Life Fully’ by saying
“When you add lawnmowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers, jack hammers, jet engines, transport trucks, and horns and buzzers of all types and descriptions, you have a wall of constant noise and irritation. Even when watching a television program at a reasonable volume level you are blown out of your chair when a commercial comes on at the decibel level of a jet”.
A recent study conducted by the Cornell University** about the impact of noise on employees in an open area office space where people are constantly exposed to fax machines, telephones, office chatter, shredding machines, etc revealed that workers in an open area had high level of adrenalin*** in their urine. When these employees were compared to those in quiet offices the results were startling. Workers in quiet offices did not have the same high levels of adrenalin in their urine. Besides, they were much more relaxed and less stressed.
Moreover, a puzzle demanding attention and concentration was given to both groups of employees. The results revealed that the open area workers were found to be less diligent in the solution of the puzzle. They easily frustrated and gave up much earlier than the employees from the quiet offices.
Another striking results found by the study are about sleeping, digestion and the psychological state of the employees under study. The study has revealed that workers from the quiet office slept better at night, had better digestion, were much less irritable at home and felt better at the end of their workday than employees from the open area offices.
It seems clear from the results of such studies that noise does not only affect our focus and productivity but also impact our physical and psychological balance. Noise pollution tends to increase stress levels which in turn can result in increased frustration and anger.
There is no doubt that the results of this study should push us to revise and re-establish our relationship with silence. In other words, we must begin to establish a friendship with silence.
*Mike Moore is an international speaker and writer on human potential, motivation and humour. You can check out his website at www.motivationalplus.com
**It is an American university
***Is released by the body when under stress. It prepares us for fight or flight.
The key 4 powers of silence
Till now, we have seen and known -from the introduction- the type of silence this research is concerned about and its true meaning. We have also recognized the importance of silence in a terribly noisy world showing some startling facts and striking recent studies. In this chapter, I have managed to devote it to the key four powers of silence as located by the Irish writer Tony Cuckson*. In fact, Tony has located seven powers but I have chosen the most important ones that everyone could experience regardless of his/ here possibilities or where s/he lives.
In his valuable article “Enjoy the Silence” Tony has summarized the benefits of silence by saying that: silence is creative, silence promotes the inner and builds trust, silence gives rest, and silence allows listening. In this chapter I will try to explain these powers of silence respectively.
1 – Silence is creative:
In his article, Tony has defined creativity as creating unprecedented and unexampled things into being. He expressed that “Creativity is not found within the known. Creativity means to bring the new into being”.
* Tony Cuckson is a writer on “learning to be enough” in the 21st Century. He is author of the ezine -an electronic magazine- “Irish Blessings Subscribe to Irish Blessings Matter ezine a FREE weekly input of inspiration to lift the heart and heal the soul.
With this sense creativity is a required quality in all fields. We need creative employees, creative writers, creative teachers and more importantly creative students. Man is creative by nature; however, we often destroy this quality by some unhealthy habits. For instance, doing a task, homework or writing an assay while listening to music or television, surely will affect our concentration and consequently will affect the quality of the work that we try to accomplish.
Yet creativity needs silence and quiet environment. A quiet environment allows the creative person to develop his talent and to think deeper. Inspiration always comes in silent environment. For instance, intellectuals, thinkers, poetry writers, inventors and creators in all fields always seek absolute silence and quiet environment so that they could work comfortably and get inspiration. Imagination also springs from silence. Silence and quiet are to an artist, an author or inventor etc, what fertilizer is to crops.
In conclusion, it can be said that “Silence and creativity are one” Tony asserted. By relating silence to creativity, he has insisted on the idea that silence is the wellspring of creativity.
2 — Silence promotes the inner and builds trust:
When we silence we turn our thoughts and focus inwards and gain the power we need to refuel our minds Steven Aitchison* has stated. Our ego** is temporarily switched off or at least made to be quiet for a bit, and we start to see the real world as it should be (he continued). Our thoughts get in the way of our reality sometimes and we don’t see the beauty of the world around us. When there is silence there is time for introspection and to allow your true-self to speak, not the ego, not the conscious mind but the true-self connected to the flow of energy around us (Steven added in his online Blog).
Tony Cuckson agrees with Steven Aitchison by saying that through silence we could trust our selves. Silence enables us to listen to our inner voice and to detect our unique methods of thinking. It gives us a chance to understand our selves better. Consequently, we improve and re-establish our relationships with our selves. We simply used to think that others know better than we do. We have been taught this for most of our lives. Listening silently to the promptings of our hearts we begin got know our own voices. We become our own masters.
To put it more simply, we could say that silence helps us to find our values, understand our strengths, identify our tendencies, acknowledge our limitations, set our goals and then establish our direction.
* Steven Aitchison currently lives in Scotland working as an Addiction Worker, helping clients with alcohol and drug issues. He has a degree in psychology, a sense of humour, and a down to earth approach to self help.
** The self of an individual person; the conscious subject
3 — Silence gives rest:
The lack of silence in our modern life results in lack of comfort. Anuradha Vashisht* has expressed this idea by saying:
“The fidgetiness, the restlessness we see in the majority of people these days indicates how far removed they are from the silence of the body”
Anuradha wants to say that people nowadays cannot be still or calm in one place for a considerable period of time mainly because of the hyperactivity phenomenon. The problem of hyperactivity is increasing as most people constantly need a prop for their bodies like shuffling feet, shaking a leg while sitting in a chair, swaying their bodies, inane scratching, constantly doing something with their hands, asking for tea or coffee to get over boredom, and so on.
Most of the physical activities that have been described above often reflect the clatter and the noise one has in his mind which would prevent him from enjoying his rest.
To overcome this hyperactivity we should devote a considerable period of time for silence in order to give ourselves a deep rest. In silence the
*Anuradha Vashisht, Delhi-based journalist, researcher, writer and media professional, has over 15 years experience in the media. Having trained as a journalist with the Times of India Group, some of her major assignments were with Financial Express, Indian Express and The Pioneer.
body slows. The rate of breathing slows. Our heart rate drops. We just forget about the past and future to live the present moment. We enter our essential self. There is no need to go anywhere. There is no place to go. This is our time for relaxation. This is our time for simply catching a breath and recharging our batteries.
4 — Silence allows listening:
Silence gives us the opportunity to listen to others and more importantly to ourselves. When others speak or during a conversation, silence could be used as sort of politeness and respect that would make the communication successful (we will tackle this idea in depth in the next chapter (Examples of When to Use Silence)).
Yet the inner-silence also is very important. Since, it gives us a chance to listen to our inner voices. It helps us to turn our thoughts and focus inwards and live the present moment now not the past not the future. The inner-silence enables us to save our minds from the inane thoughts and eliminate all mental noises. Thus we make our minds calmer. Consequently, we can work and study more efficiently and our productivity will increase. The mental silence should be the prime goal in our daily life. If we can be mentally calm we can solve many problems of life and find ways to do difficult tasks.
Finally, we could say that by listening to others we will gain respect and by listening to ourselves, we will not be afraid of the battles of life, because internally we will be very strong. By developing the virtue of inner silence, we should be broad like sky (tolerate others’ thoughts) and deep like ocean (where all life problems will be sunk).
The importance of silence for students
Besides all the silence’s powers that we have mentioned earlier which all are so important for all people, students can get much more from silence.
As we know, our education system encourages students to get ahead of their competition and to get excellent marks so that they could conserve their chance to get a respectable job. Naturally when we are competing each other we can never be at ease. We become bound to be stressed and this pressure will keep on increasing with every passing day.
Silence and meditation are the perfect tools to release this pressure and feel at ease with ourselves. In fact today every student- whether from engineering, management, business or arts- needs meditation more than ever. Connecting with ones’ deeper self leaves him refreshed and regenerated so that he can move forward in life without being exhausted or stressed.
As any other part of our bodies; our minds need rest too. We must just think what would happen to our bodies if we keep on working for example for 16 hours or more per day and never get a chance to take repose? Automatically we will be tired, exhausted and unable to master any kind of work. Same is the case with our minds, they need break likewise. Thence, we could say that silence and meditation are more essential to students in particular as all their tasks demands great mental efforts.
It can be concluded from what we have seen till now that silence is not mere an absence of sounds or noises but also a technique and a therapy that all people and students in particular are in-need of.
After recognizing the key powers and benefits of silence, the question now is how could we reconcile and re-establish our relationship with it? This is what we will see in the next chapter.
How could we improve our relationship with silence?
Before starting this chapter we have to remember that people do not have an absolute control over all the noises they hear daily in the street or in places where they work, study etc; however, they do have control over their own private environment.
In this private environment we can reorganize ourselves, reconsider our habits and attitudes towards silence. In our private environment we could cultivate a good friendship with silence following several steps. In this chapter, I have selected from Mike Moore’s advices the most important, simplest and applicable ones that we could -as students living in Meknes- easily follow.
Firstly, we should change the negative image that we have in our minds about silence. In other words, we have to learn about and extend our knowledge about the value of silence. We can do that either through reading psychological books, asking the psychologists or searching in the internet about the benefits of silence. To put it more simply, we should prepare ourselves morally and mentally for practicing Mike Moore’ steps.
After changing your attitudes towards silence, you should try to change some of your habits. For instance, when walking to school avoid using your MP3 player or any other such devices and try to walk in silence. When you read a book or prepare for an exam, do it in silence.
If you used to read, write and prepare for exams while listening to music or watching television you should try silence. You will find it much helpful. When you are alone in your residence, try to turn off all noise sources for a specific period of time. Begin with fifteen minutes of silence a day and gradually increase the duration.
If you succeeded to change your habits and attitude towards silence then you should enlarge your experience with silence by learning how to meditate. Attempt to schedule a ten minute for meditation and contemplation period once or twice a day. Then extend your meditation time gradually.
Mike Moore concluded by saying:
“Soon you will begin to cherish the periods of silence you have built into your day and long for more. You will quickly discover that you are becoming more relaxed and less tense even in the midst of our noisy world. You will have made an invaluable new friend of silence, a friend which can comfort, heal and soothe your spirit. What a gift you will have given yourself”.
In conclusion, it can be said that if we followed Mike’ advices we would reconcile our relationship with silence and certainly would discover the restorative power of silence that students are in need of it.
Examples of when to use silence
Silence is often mis-characterized as unimportant or awkward. As a result the modern conversations become chaos in which two or more people racing to see who can speak more without paying any attention to the other. Yet, people forget that silence can be used as a technique of communication, kind of respect and as an anti-gossiping.
1. Silence as a technique of communication
As a technique of communication silence could be used in daily conversation, during arguments and job interviews.
To get a better conversation, one must use brief pauses to give the other person a chance to think, get better understanding of the topic and then react effectively. Just as he needs in return a chance to absorb and process all that information the other person has just said.
Another best time to use the power of silence is during an argument. For instance, when someone is shouting at you, looking for an argument you can literally take all the power away from him and save all your energy by simply looking back at them saying absolutely nothing. Yet it is extremely difficult to do but very powerful.
Students also can use silence to their advantage in job interviews. Students often do not consider silence as one of the most valuable interview techniques that can be used both by the job candidates and the interviewers. For many interviewees, the silence of the interviewer is seen awkward because it tends to imply that they have been found lacking and do not satisfy or fit the interviewer’s standards. However, good interviewers use silence when listening attentively to what the interviewee is saying; so a job candidate should not be frightened if the interviewer does so. Also, a job candidate can use the same silence to demonstrate critical thinking skills and an ability to remain poised in difficult situations. Here are a few tips* to help you use silence in a job interview to your advantage.
A – Use brief pauses (no more than 15 seconds) when you need to collect your thoughts, recall the information the interviewer requested
B – Introduce a silent pause when several questions are asked in rapid succession before you have had a chance to answer the first one. Repeat the first question and answer it; then request the interviewer to ask subsequent questions.
C – Avoid any urge to fill the silence with unsolicited information about your background or experience. Many interviewees have lost the job by impulsively blurting out details that led the interviewer to ask questions for which the interviewees were unprepared to answer.
D – Finally, do not forget to remain mentally alert during the silence.
2. Silence as a kind of respect
Silence could also be used to show respect in many occasions. It has long been recognized by many religious groups as a key component of an ascetic path to spirituality. For example, we as Muslims we silence when we hear someone reading the Qur’an. We also recommend silence in the funerals. Moreover, silence has become a universal practice used in all over the world. As we used to held one minute of silence as a remembrance of the people died in a natural disaster or an important person died recently.
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During conversations silence also may be used to express admiration and esteem. Just let people talk and listen to them and use your facial expressions and movements to acknowledge that you are listening. Thus, you will imply that you are respecting them and you will gain their respect in return. In contrast, when you do not listen to or interrupt people before they have finished, you are essentially indicating that the other person’s thoughts are not that important. What could be considered as a kind of impoliteness and discourage him/her to continue talking.
3. Silence as method of combatting gossip
When there is a crowd of people in the workplace while the boss is absent or in classroom before the coming of teacher there are always gossipers who speak about other people. What makes gossiping dangerous is that it is contagious. When we don’t like someone and someone else starts speaking about him we naturally tend to voice our opinion, I’ve done it lots of times and have to stop myself.
Try and stop yourself from catching the virus of gossiping and use the power of silent whenever it occurs. If you are a gossiper yourself and people around start to notice that you are ‘not your usual self’, do not give an explanation just ignore them or say that silence is golden.
Be still and know the restorative power of silence. (Ideas we should keep in mind)
Besides, isn’t it nice to say nothing when you have nothing to say?
“We need to rediscover the power of attention and we do that through silence – the concentration that we use in prayer can be used in everyday life,”
1-In few words, what comes to your mind when you hear the word silence?
2-“Silence is golden” Agree? “Silence is boring” Agree?
3-Do you find sometimes that you are talking just to break the silence?
4-Do you think that silence is important for your health balance?
To some extent yes
Of course, yes
Could you justify your answer?
5-Have you ever thought to get regular periods or moments of silence?
6-Do you actually allocate regular periods from your time for silence?
from time to time
If you do not answer by no, could you explain why or for what purpose?
7-Do you prefer silence while preparing for exams or soft music?
I prefer silence
It depends on the subject being prepared
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