A Case for Silence

Cedric Johnson, Ph.D and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

Whether we know it or not we need silence in our lives. It is essential for so many things; for example,  generating creative thought, reducing stress, restoring our sense of well-being, and maintaining our sanity in a noisy world….

However since there are so few places on earth where complete silence is available we have to create such opportunities. Moreover, when we find them we need to avoid contaminating them with noise (the 24-hour news cycle, loud music, jet skis, leaf blowers!).

About a week ago, we visited a Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico, far up the side of a mountain. This is the final resting place for the annual migration of 150 million Monarch butterflies starting in eastern Canada and ending here, in south central Mexico. For several months, great masses of butterflies occupy this almost sacred forest, leaving visitors breathless with wonder.

Most of the time people observe this amazing phenomena in complete silence. However, on this occasion, there were a group of North Americans sitting on the grass next to us talking very loudly on a topic that seemed so out of sync with this context. One person complained,

“In my lifetime we will never see another US Congress with a majority of its members from the Democratic Party!”

We thought to ourselves:

“In this wonderful sanctuary with millions of butterflies swirling around us right now, who cares about your political opinion? Can’t you just be silent and fully in the moment?”

Having to listen to such chatter when the occasion warranted complete silence led us to reflect on the destructive power of noise.

In life, as in music, when there are no spaces between the notes, all we have is noise. The racket in our world (and in our heads!) is destroying our experience of sacred and necessary places, places where the only sounds are the sounds made by Nature. It is over stressing us and keeping us from deeper thought and conversation.

Burning Question

How can we create conditions where we can slow down the noise inside our heads and outside in our environment so that we can  be quiet? How can we make this a regular part of our lives?



About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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4 Responses to A Case for Silence

  1. Sondi Wright says:

    could not agree more, Cedric sondi

    • cedricj says:

      We are all pulled in by internal and external noise in our lives so it takes real effort to gravitate toward silence. Your yoga and meditation practice does that for you. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I love this post. Silence is so necessary in our lives to promote good overall health & well being. I have done some 10 day silent retreats & the one thing that I find to be the most profound of experiences in my life… is when we are allowed to talk again. The power & energy of the vibration of speech and how it feels in the body & mind after being silent for 10 days is almost unexplainable. I find meditation to be a powerful tool for dealing with all the chatter & noise that can be present or created on a day-to-day basis!

    • cedricj says:

      I really resonate with your comment Allison. We are currently at a retreat in the mountains of New Mexico where it is almost a totally silent environment.I can feel myself coming back to awareness. Thanks for your comment.

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