“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.”
― Miles Davis
Not so long ago I’ve written here on my blog about the ability of staying silent. It was in Hungarian, so let’s discuss a bit this topic in English too, because I am still thinking about it a lot. I think that we are in trouble because of noise pollution in general everywhere in our life. Noise pollution by traffic, different engines, the different music or TV programs of stores, clubs, bars, restaurants (sometimes even in the middle of nature) and the too much talk or communication of us, humans. And if it is not enough, I go further: “Noise pollution can exist inside our minds as well.” (Christine Stevens: Music Medicine)
But why silence is so important in our life?
Let’s approach it from a very grounded and practical point of view, through music. Also from Christine Stevens: “Silence gives music space to breath, and gives listeners time to digest. Without spaces music would be out of breath, exhausted and unbalanced.”
Sound healing expert Jill Purce says: “The purpose of sound is silence”. The need of silence in our life is very crucial in the moments when we create something. When we want to dig inside of us, discover our true self and bring something new up to the surface. This act requires inner reflection and excluding noises (ideas, thoughts of others) from the outside.
Also when we are in a growing or changing phase (which should happen every now and then at any age according to our personal self-development and transformation processes) and when we want to find our own individual path, answers, also these processes require external silence and inner focus.
If we never ever stay in the space of silence, we cannot discover ourselves, we cannot build a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious, and therefore, we will not be able to give anything personal and true to this world, we will never enrich our environment with the gifts we were born with and we will never be able to digest, filter, integrate whatever happens in the outside world. Lacking silence makes us ungrounded and vulnerable and empty.
Silence is something that we can create for ourselves, but also something that we can provide to others. So why is that also important? On first level it is a gesture of respect. Silence can be the gesture of trust and encouragement too. Providing silence requires empathy, humility, wisdom and a mature individual with sensitivity and the ability of spending time in his/her own silence. If someone already harvested from his/her own silence, this person experienced the importance of it, so has more sensitivity for giving it also.
Herbie Hancock American pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, composer, buddhist, who was part of the famous Miles Davis Quintet from 1963 till 1968 explains the wisdom of silence in one of his seminars called: The wisdom of Miles Davis. I highlight some parts of his speech now, because I like his words and the beautiful example he mentions:
“Only a great master can provide a path to find your own true answers. The loudest noise in the world is silence said Thelonious Monk /American jazz pianist and composer/. Doing nothing can sometimes be doing a great deal in disguise. Silence is a vital component of music. It’s as powerful as the surrounding notes. And silence is a critical life skill. Think about how much of our lives are gestures or allowing others to ponder and draw their own conclusions. A person of wisdom knows how to provide that kind of SPACE, the sounds of silence.
During my highschool years in 1956 I was thrilled to get a job at the neighbourhood mom an pop grocery store within walking distance from my home. On the second day of my employment the owner told me he was gonna show me something after he closed up the shop for the evening. He locked the door and then instructed me how to pull a certain lever on the cash register that would not register on the receipt. He was asking me to cheat. To steal. To defraud the poor people who I knew in the neighbourhood. This was unconscionable to me because I was never the kind of person who could swindle people however, I felt conflicted, consufed, and discouraged. I went home that evening and told my father about it and let him know that if I didn’t cheat on the receipts the owner said he would fire me, and since I wanted to keep my job I was at a loss of what to do, how to proceed. My father’s succeed advice was: „well son, you have to figure that one out for yourself.” I went back into the store the next day and quit. Afraid that my father would be angry about me quitting my job I arrived back home and told him what I did. And, you know what he said to me? He said: „Son, I’m proud of you.” Leaving the decision on my shoulders was the wisest of choices. Reinforce his belief in me and board my own self-confidence. The sound of his silence was loud and clear.” – Herbie Hancock: The wisdom of Miles Davis Harvard Lecture #1 – full video HERE
“We recognize the incubating ideas hidden in a moment of silence as a pregnant pause.” – said also Christine Stevens in her book: Music Medicine. In this pause not only ideas, but certain answers, new discoveries of ourselves, unique solutions, all intuitive wisdom could come up to the surface that elevate us to another level in our life. These are transformative moments. The most beautiful example about transformative moment and silent support for me is the service of a doula (a person who provides emotional support to the woman) during childbirth. I also accomplished a training to be a birth-doula and in one of our books, there is this wonderful definition of true support being provided to the mother:
The support is unconditional.
The support is silence…
not judging, neither telling our own story.
Support never gives advice…
but offers a handkerchief, a touch, a hug… care.
Our mission is to help the mother to discover her own feelings,
and not to ignore her feelings.
Our mission is to help the mother to map her possibilities…
but never telling her which one to choose.
We are here to discuss steps with the mother,
but never to do the steps in stead of her.
We are here to help the mother to reconnect her own power…
and not to save her and then leave her in her vulnerability.
We are here to show the mother the way to help herself…
and not to take her responsibility away from her.
We are here to help the mother to be able to make choices…
But never to deprive her from the necessity of making hard choices.
– Anonymus –
During childbirth the biggest support and help we could provide to a woman is giving her an unconditional silent, passive care, to help her find her own power, her own instincts, to connect her own true nature. To experince a transformation that changes her entire life, and experince that she is able to go through the biggest fears in her life with her own inner power and instinct. This new woman will be the mother. Each and every transformative event (all of them are related with some kind of loss) in our life makes a different person of us.
So finally remember: when someone respects you with her/his honesty and self expression, with telling you about her doubts, fears, or any of her/his inner feelings or expressions, probably the most you can do is a silent support, being a listener. We don’t have to give answers to everyone and on everything, especially on other people’s life, because we are all unique creatures with unique life, and we all need to gain the confidence in our inner voice and wisdom. Even if someone asks your advice or opinion, it doesn’t mean that you have to. You can always have the wisdom to say no and give her/him the experience of self-discovery, silence, inner-reflection and self-confidence, self-trust. Listening to someone with honest interest, curiosity and care and acceptance while providing silence is the most missing healing element in our life. Don’t be afraid to use it. In a world, where almost nobody has a meaningful creative job with freedom, meaningful high quality relationships, connection with the external and internal nature, we all need a healing, incubation space to detoxify, experience a little freedom, and find the way out of our own slavery. We need at least one environment, where people don’t jugde us, don’t want to overrule or question our feelings, experiences, opinions, preferences and where we can be free and naked in front of the others without being ashamed or judged. Where we don’t have to explain ourselves and protect or hide our true nature. Several studies showed that supressing our own nature leads to all kinds of mental illnesses, such as depression and so on. The way how we experience this world, how we feel about it, how we interpret certain life events are never the matters of arguements. Instead of clever advices we need much more compassionate, nurturing human connections based on acceptance, care, eye contact, skin-to-skin connection and silence. Adults normally when they socialize and want to connect, they are not looking for another guide or external master in their life, but quality relationship based on equality and respect. Even when they are in difficult periods in their life, primarily they need to reconnect to their own power, solutions and creativity to gain stability, self-confidence, autonomy that make them more and more independent and free. If you give space to someone, you help him grow. Just look at nature. And not only grow, but grow truthfully. To discover who we are and to sound like ourselves. That’s why we need “silence”.
So I wish you golden silence on all levels of your life to heal ourselves and each other. More harmony, more music with sounds based on silence.
Photo: Miles Davis