Monthly Archives: October 2017

Noodle on This: The Power of Silence

Be silent an observant like the stars..

Be silent and observant like the stars.

Noodle* on this…
Quietness is the beginning of virtue. To be silent is to be beautiful. Stars do not make a noise. ~ James Stephens

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. – Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

We live noisy lives. Planes, trains, automobiles, cell phone ringing, music played over loudspeakers, all add to the noise of life. This constant noise affects our ability to function, think and learn. It exhausts us and interferes with our ability to hear and understand speech according to Professor Gary W. Evans, PhD, at Cornell University.

Unfortunately, there is little we can do about all this ambient noise. In fact, we are so accustomed to noise that silence makes some people uncomfortable, as in the phrase deafening silence.

When I was in college, I took a counseling skills course. There were about a dozen students in the class and on the first day, the professor had us sit in a circle – like a group therapy circle. He joined us in the circle and said absolutely nothing for a few minutes. But it seemed like forever!

In just a few seconds, we students were looking at each other, squirming in our seats and clearing our throats. All the while, the professor sat quietly looking at his hands resting in his lap. Then, the students started asking questions and making comments. When that did not evoke any response from the professor, the talking died off and we all sat silently. Finally without looking up, the professor started reporting, without any notes, what various students said and did during the silent time. Then he looked up, made eye contact with each of us and said, Your most powerful skill is the ability to be silent and listen.

The Power of Silence

There is power in silence. Specifically, being silent:

  • Gives us the time to think things through and sort out our emotions.
  • Helps us solve problems while remaining calm.
  • Helps us in our work.
  • Gives us peace.

Sometimes, when we are silent, we must face our fears. This helps us develop wisdom and strength according to people like Lao Tzu (500 BC) who taught that silence is a source of great strength and Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626 AD) who defined silence as the sleep that nourishes wisdom. Even the writers of the  Old Testament understood the importance of silence.  Proverbs 17:28 tells us: Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

However, remember that silence, like any other power can be misused, when it is used to punish others or show anger.

What happens in silence?

When we are silent we can hear and understand what others are saying. Being silent in a conversation means actually listening to the other person, not thinking about what we want to say or what to have for dinner. When we listen silently, we hear the person’s tone of voice; notice the words they stress; notice their body language; and hear what the person is actually saying. Silence gives us what doctors call a tincture of time, meaning it gives us the time and space necessary for compassion, wisdom, peace and understanding.

In addition, when we listen to others in courteous, attentive silence, they are more like to return the favor by listening to us without interrupting.

Your Noodling Challenge…

power of silence

Shhh…

Here are some questions about dilrnvr.

  1. Simon and Garfunkle had a hit song The Sound of Silence (1964)  What does silence sound like?
  2. Does silence make you happy? Explain why.
  3. Could you be silent for one hour, one day or one week? What would it be like?
  4. Can you sit in a meeting or in a group of any kind without speaking? How does it feel? What did you notice?
  5. Do you seek silence or do you avoid it? Why?

Do one of the following:

  1. Select one or two of the questions above and answer it.
  2. Spend a few minutes every day just being quiet and observant.

Share you experience with us in the Leave a Reply section below.

Consider this…

You are most powerful when you are most silent. People never expect silence. They expect words, motion, defense, offense, back and forth. They expect to leap into the fray. They are ready, fists up, words hanging leaping from their mouths. Silence? No.”  Alison McGhee, All Rivers Flow to the Sea

Riddle Me This…

Q: What vegetables do librarians like?
A: Quiet peas

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm … and then to act!

Photo Credits

 

Noodle on This: Don’t Beat Yourself Up, Try Self-Compassion Instead

Noodle* on this…Person on beach with heart scrapped into the sand an example os self-compassion
A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change you entire life.   ~ Christpher Germer, PhD

Self-compassion is…

Self compassion is not self-pity nor is it self-esteem. It is about:

  • Treating ourselves with kindness by not beating ourselves up when we make mistakes;
  • Accepting that we are human beings who are inherently imperfect;
  • Realizing we all experience pain – both physical and emotional; and,
  • Taking a balanced approach toward our emotions, neither suppressing them nor exaggerating them – in other words, living mindfully.

Research psychologist Kristen Neff, PhD. and others have found that when we treat ourselves with compassion, we experience more life satisfaction, optimism, social connectedness, joy, peace of mind and wisdom.

As some wise person once said, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Self-compassion is about skipping the suffering and dealing directly with the pain.

Self-compassion in Action

My friend Suzanne was a victim of the Great Recession of 2008. She was laid off after many years with the same company. She regularly received excellent performance evaluations, several promotions and raises. She was devastated. Even as she worked on her resume, met with a job counselor, and joined several networking groups, part of her was always asking, “what did I do wrong; who did I annoy that I shouldn’t have; what could I have done differently?” All these thoughts led to depression the seemed to slowly engulf her.

So, she took a day off, went to the beach, and had a serious talk with herself. Basically, she told herself, “it’s not you – it’s the economy! There are several million people in the same situation. It is what it is! So, stop beating yourself up.”

It is what it is became a common thought for her when there were no responses to her submitted resumes; when she did not receive a call back for a second interview or when a prospective employer called to say. “Thanks, but no thanks. We hired someone else.”

What Suzanne did not realize, until years later, was that she was treating herself with compassion, which includes.

  • Kindness – “don’t beat yourself up.”
  • Common humanity – “you are not alone, millions of people lost their jobs.”
  • Mindfulness – “it is what it is.”

With self-compassion, along with the constant loving support of family and friends, she found a job. And what a great job it is! Self-compassion helped her get through what could have been a horribly long, depressing and difficult time. Instead, she handled it with patience and with her sense of humor and sense of self intact.

Your Noodling Challenge…

 Whit lotus representing serenity and self compassionThe serenity prayer—made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs—captures self-compassion beautifully: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” ~ Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, 2011

How do you show compassion for yourself when faced with challenges? Share your ideas with us in the Comments section below.

I’ll go first. I take a short break and move – just a five or ten minute walk. It helps calm me down and clear my mind.

Learn more about self-compassion and find your level of self-compassion with this self-assessment tool developed by Kristin Neff, PhD.

Riddle Me This

Q: Why did the traffic light turn red?
A: You would too if you had to change in the middle of the street!

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Beach image courtesy of Gena Living.

White lotus image courtesy of 1MS.NET