“It is in the moments of silence, that we can be taken to our own world where our real essence longs to be part of.” ―
My grandpa was a little boy when World War ended, 100 years ago today. Even though he was only 8 years old, he remembered Armistice Day clearly even 80 years later. He would tell the story of that day every year on Veterans Day.
When the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 there was a huge celebration, people in the streets drinking, hugging, dancing with joy. And then there was the silence. On Armistice Day, and every year after until World War II started, everything would stop at 11:11 a.m. for a moment of silence to remember the dead. Everything.
The trains stopped, the cars stopped, conversation stopped, business stopped, school stopped. In what was then the second largest city in the country, Chicago, like many places around the world, would become silent as everyone focused their thoughts and turned inward for a moment.
Silence. In today’s world it’s difficult to imagine such concentrated focus on silence.
Total silence is impossible of course. There’s always the sound of a bird, the wind, cars, a humming refrigerator. But we can cultivate a sense of silence through meditation. There may be noise around us, but we don’t have to listen to it. Instead we can tune it out and keep our focus inward.
In meditation we sometimes focus on what’s called the silence between the breaths. When you observe your breathing there’s a tiny little pause between the inhale and the exhale, and again between the exhale and in the inhale, where you aren’t breathing at all. For a brief moment, your system is still.
Through practice, this pause between the breath can naturally become longer. As silence of the breath become longer, you can work to silence your thoughts as well. Like the noises outside, your inner chatter will still be there, but you can ignore it and focus instead on silence.
That moment of silence is healing. It’s relaxing. It’s profound. Because when you’re not breathing, not thinking, when everything inside you is silent, you just are. You exist in stillness. And from stillness, comes peace.
We’ve lost this sense of silence. The world is noisier and noisier. Many people hate silence. They turn on the TV when they’re home alone, they turn on the radio in the car, all to avoid the silence. Silence can be unnerving. Silence can bring up people’s fears and doubts. It can make people nervous.
But those feelings and sensations are already there. Silence doesn’t bring them out, it just makes us aware of them because we’ve filtered out all the other static. It’s like those pictures where you stare at them and you see nothing but when you unfocus your eyes and stop trying so hard to see what’s there, the picture emerges. The picture was always in front of you, you just couldn’t see it until you stopped concentrating.
Bringing silence into your life is one of the most helpful things you can do. Developing a practice of silence is a great way to soothe stress and anxiety. It gives your mind the space to solve problems and be creative. Silence can be a way to re-boot your thoughts, like when you hit control-alt-delete on your computer and it fixes whatever weird thing is happening on your screen. Silence gives you insights into your true thoughts. It tells you what’s hidden beneath the surface, and that knowledge is power.
What if today we all lapsed into a moment of silence, like they did 100 years ago? Imagine the power of that experience. Bring that power into your own life. Embrace the silence and know your true self.
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