There are many ways to meditate – the challenge is to figure out what works for you. Maybe you’re the type of person that benefits from guided meditation, breathing exercises or simply taking a mindful walk. In this blogpost, I would like to introduce you to the concept of intermittent silence. I’ll explain what its benefits are and how to practise it – you might discover that this is the perfect way to meditate for you.
What is intermittent silence?
Intermittent silence, also referred to as ‘intentional silence’, means taking a break to disconnect from the noises and other distractions of everyday life and spend a while in silence. You can compare it to intermittent fasting, where one takes a short break from eating, or a resting day for an athlete that works out every other day of the week. It means pressing your own ‘mute’ button – as well as muting your environment.
What are the benefits of intermittent silence?
First of all, intermittent silence is an excellent way to unplug. It also reduces the pressure that many people nowadays feel when it comes to interaction with others; both face-to-face, over the phone or through email or social media. It can help to distinguish between when we feel the obligation to communicate, and when we actually want to. In the same way that intermittent fasting makes us more conscious of what and how much food we put inside our bodies, intermittent silence can make us more mindful of what we say to others and why we communicate the way we do. You may, for example, start to realize that you sometimes speak because you feel the need to prove something to others. Or maybe some of your conversations with others are triggered by anxiety; a fear of uncomfortable silences. Intermittent silence can make you more aware of why you choose to speak.
There is also scientific evidence showing the benefits of pressing ‘mute’ for a while. Both the part of our brain responsible for listening (Wernicke’s area) and the part that is responsible for speech and communication (Broca’s area) get a well-deserved break when you’re practising intermittent silence. While empirical research on intermittent silence is still somewhat scarce, there are studies showing that periods of silence stimulate the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, i.e. the area of the brain that is associated with memory, learning new skills and regulating emotions.
How do I practice intermittent silence?
If you want to give intermittent silence a try, you can simply go ahead and find a quiet space where you can be in silence for a few minutes – or a few hours, whatever you prefer. However, when you’re very used to being surrounded by noises and/or people, which is often the case when you’re living with other people, you may find you need some guidance in the beginning. In that case, you can try using a meditation timer such as Insight Timer or an app like Relaxx. What works really well for me, is simply getting up really early. I often wake up between four and five in the morning. That may seem way too early for most, but that’s exactly why it works so well. At this hour, most people (in the house as well as in your neighbourhood) are still fast asleep. You may even find the birds are not awake yet. I like to feed my cats, put moisturizer on my face, make myself a cup of coffee and walk outside. The lack of noise and presence of others gives me the opportunity to truly connect to myself and wake up at my own pace. After a while of basking in the quietness, I will open up my laptop and do some work (with all notifications on mute, of course). Often times, I manage to do half a day’s worth of work in a single hour – simply because there is nothing to distract me. And once the rest of the world starts to wake up, I am ready for it.