Reflections on Silence

Last year I read a great book called Silence in the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge.

Kagge is a Norwegian explorer who once spent fifty days walking solo across Antartica with a broken radio. He is no stranger to silence and solitude.

The book is small yet powerful and contained great wisdom.

I thought I would bring some words from that book mixed with some of my own reflections on silence.

Kagge says – Silence itself is rich. It is exclusive and luxurious. It is a key to unlock new ways of thinking. It is a practical resource for living a richer life.

Our worlds are dominated by noise, both internal and external.
Often even when we do come to silence, we are confronted by the noise within.

This internal noise can be too uncomfortable leading us back to turning up the external noise perpetuating the loop.
When our lives are noisy we can tend towards living on auto-pilot.

We get swept along by the ever moving currents without ever stopping.

When we don’t take time to simply be with ourselves in silence we miss out on what’s really going on for us underneath the surface, on what we’re struggling with, on what we desire, on what we need.

Kagge – Whenever I sit quietly in a room alone, without any goal, without anything to look at, the chaos surfaces. It is difficult only to sit there. Multiple temptations will surface. My brain, which functions so well on autopilot, is no longer helpful. It’s not easy being idle when nothing else is going on, it is quiet and you are alone. I often choose to do anything else rather than fill the silence with myself. I have gradually come to realise that the source of many of my problems lies precisely in the struggle.

When we’re not used to it, silence is scary.

In silence I’m forced to face myself, allowing all my fears, shame, guilt, regrets, disappointments, doubts and resentments to come to the surface.

In silence my drivenness slows down just enough to allow new thoughts, unwanted to-do lists and more ides than I know who to do with.

It can be exhausting.

And yet…

With practice silence opens a way to break through the chaos and let go – of insecurities, of not being in control, of fear, of pain, of discomfort and struggle.

It creates space for me to be rather than do and in that place to come to peace.

In time, as we walk through the discomfort we make room for a deeper settledness to come – into ourselves, into God – and eventually this settledness remains.

Kagge says that silence is a way of getting inside what you’re doing, being present to life, experiencing rather than over-thinking. It allows each moment to be big enough.

We cannot wait for it to be quiet, we must create our own silence.
It has to be intentionally sought or it will never happen.
Our current life model does not value it and so much of what consists of life these days actually pushes it away.

I love how Kagge talks about silence of being a luxury we can all afford:

He says – I believe silence is the new luxury. Silence is more long-lasting than other luxuries. The pursuit of luxury is about attaining more and more. Silence on the other hand, is about taking away, subtracting something…. it’s about being unavailable, to turn your back on the daily din.

How interesting that we work hard, being busy and effective in order to obtain the luxuries we desire when silence is always on offer and ultimately, as we practice it, makes a way for us to live a life that is fulfilling on a truer and deeper level.

The luxuries we pay for come and go, silence remains and offers a far greater gift.

Silence invites a simpler, slower life where the small things of the day to day come as gifts.

Kagge – Silence is about rediscovering, through pausing, the things that bring us joy.

From my experience of engaging silence, I would say that as well as joy it brings more peace, contentment, the ability to let go of what is unimportant and a greater appreciation for what is rather than focussing on what isn’t.

Kagge – For thousands of years, individuals who lived in close quarters with no-one but themselves around – monks on mountaintops, hermits, sailors, shepherds and explorers on their voyage home – have been convinced that the answer to life’s mysteries can be found in silence. That is the point. You sail our across the sea, but its when you make your return journey that you may discover what you have been seeking is in fact inside yourself.

Erling Kagge’s book is available to buy…

Silence in the age of Noise

As your Spiritual Director, I will be a companion on your spiritual journey, creating a safe place to help you discover the truth about yourself, about God and about your relationships with others.