Silence as a foundation to freedom & psychological wellbeing
Kathleen Norris (10) in her book ‘The Secret Ingredient’ concurs with Theologian Thomas Merton, that silence is foundational to human freedom and psychological well-being. This generally means that for a person to be psychologically healthy and in a good state as to make sound judgments, he or she has to take time off to be either alone and/or in silence.
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It also means that silence offers human freedom in that it can be an escapism tactic from the chaos, pressure, and demands one faces in the social environment or work environment. Silence in lay man’s terms can be described as lack of audible sounds, communication in any form, or media within a specific environment.
On performing the silence test, where I spent thirty minutes in a quiet room without doing anything except breathing and thinking, I got more clarity concerning this issue of silence as a vital tool for achieving psychological wellbeing.
I was able to experience silence’s advantages first hand. However, this did not come easily as there were several challenges, both internal and external. Internal challenges encountered included the temptation to look around and pick up objects in the room or move furniture that looks misplaced, desire to move around the room, or to sniff loudly, or say something out aloud (Sasson 62).
External challenges were also encountered; these included voices and noises from people outside the room, hence bringing about the urge to make contact with the people outside and to look out through the window towards where the distractions came from. All these threatened my peaceful state. This shows that there are several setbacks to attaining a peaceful state of mind and one needs to be strong willed so as not to succumb to these distractions.
The exercise was quite strenuous for the first few minutes but then on getting used to the quiet atmosphere, l relaxed and started enjoying the peace and tranquility prevailing in the room.
For the first few minutes my mind which had been at work had to adapt to the suddenly silent atmosphere hence the strain in trying to be quiet and not think or do anything. By the exercise being strenuous at first, it shows that there is lack of relaxation on my part, hence psychological unsettlement, which could be as a result of a strenuous or demanding environment from which I had been.
My experience with the silence exercise supports Norris’s assertion concerning silence as after l had familiarized myself with the quiet, peaceful environment, I was able to relax and enjoy the silence prevailing, and could clearly organize my thoughts and hence feel more at home.
After the exercise I enjoyed a feeling of utter serenity and my mind was at rest, not at all concerned with all the issues prevailing outside. I realized l had much better concentration on other activities as a result of a relaxed mind. This is a clear indication of better psychological wellbeing. The quiet room also provided freedom from all the chaos prevailing outside the room hence was a haven of peace and an escape route.
In her book, ‘The Noon day Demon: A woman’s struggle with soul weariness’, Kathleen Norris further emphasizes on the need for silence in every person’s life. She advises that people should take care that as the public environment becomes more chaotic, threatening, and demanding each day, what we think of freedom as consisting of retreat and insularity.
She advocates for meditation and gives an example of a woman facing the ocean in a yoga position. No doubt the tranquility she experiences from her yoga position and the quiet beach front is calming to her nerves and eventually contributes to her psychological well-being.
According to Remez Sasson (100), people should adopt lifestyles which favor their well-being and also should incorporate techniques such embracing moments of silence once in a while, or if possible more often; it helps in clarity of issues and helps one make sound judgments that are not influenced by external factors, pressure or duress. It also helps prevent burn out due to constant pressure in the environment.
All in all, given a chance to repeat this exercise (or even incorporate it as a routine), I would definitely agree to this. This is because, as human beings, we are prone to strenuous activities that are brought about in our day to day life – for instance at the workplace, in our homes, in sports and other general co-curriculum activities.
Also, human beings are surrounded by strenuous events such as ailments, loss of loved ones, relationship breakups, family disputes and so forth. All these stress related issues play a big role in bringing one down; simply, they are exhausting for an individual to bear alone.
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Through Kathleen Norris’ exercise, I would be able to break free of all these stress-related issues in life and be at peace not only with myself, but with the environment in general. After all, everyone needs a little time away; as a lay-man would put it, a little ‘me-time’. It sure goes a long way to help an individual re-group his or her thoughts and definitely, when one is at peace with themselves, they are bound to pass this positive energy to the world – with this, it would surely be a beautiful world!
Norris, Kathleen. The Noonday Demon: A modern woman’s struggle with soul weariness. Oxford: Lion, 2009. Print.
Sasson, Remez. Meditation: Inner peace, bliss and silence. New York: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.