I’ve been thinking about silence recently. It all started when I saw this article on the BBC Website: The glories of being quiet.
Silence is a magical thing. I can recall a handful of times when I’ve experienced it. The most vivid memory is from a walking holiday as a teenager. A small tarn in the Lake District. No breeze. We were in a slight dip and there were no people.
The absence of sound made me stop in my tracks. It was immediately obvious and incredibly powerful. Different from the usual peace and quiet you get in the hills. It’s really stuck with me.
But, it’s not silence I usually seek.
Unless you are in Antarctica, or perhaps a vacuum, you are unlikely to experience a complete lack of sound. That’s no bad thing. The soundtrack of the countryside is one of the finest symphonies you’ll hear. It got me thinking of my favourite sounds of the countryside. This is what I came up with:
- Gentle breezes
- A sheep’s distant “baaaaaaa”
- The dawn chorus
- Water lapping over rocks in a nearby stream
- The gentle hum of a jet at 35,000ft
- The call of a buzzard soaring on the thermals
- The “rrrrrrrrr” of an elusive woodpecker tapping its beak on bark
All pretty soothing stuff…
What you need, then, is stillness. The modern workplace isn’t built for this. Even if you are alone in the building, there’s always the white noise of the air-conditioning or the electric hum of a photocopier. You need to get outside to find stillness and that’s getting more difficult in our cities. That means the countryside. The perfect excuse for you to go exploring further afield this weekend.
I was encouraged to read the findings in the BBC article about silence relieving stress. That’s one reason we feel so good after a day in the mountains. It’s that absence of ‘chronic noise’ which is the key ingredient. It releases tension and gives us time to think.
It’s no coincidence that after weeks of thinking of a name for my website, the answer came to me whilst out walking. It’s the stillness that unlocks your creativity. Imagine if employers were willing to allow people to get outside more. We’d cut down meeting times significantly!
I also liked the mention of silence being a powerful tool in conversation. In meetings, I’ve always liked the notion of it’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt. I’m sure we can all think of people we wish would follow this adage.
So, there are lots of benefits to introducing more silence in our lives. It takes practice but the outdoors offer a springboard into reaping the rewards of stillness. By getting away from the stresses of the city, ignoring electronic devices and really tuning into the stillness of the countryside for a few hours, you’ll naturally start to unwind.
The more of this you do, the more you’ll start to prioritise moments of stillness during the working day too. Far from being a distraction, it’s like pressing the reset button, allowing you to get back in the ring and produce some of your best work.
And where is this mystical place in the Lake District where you can experience true silence? Well, I’m not prepared to give away that secret. You’ll need to get out there and find it for yourself.