Day 4 of Silence on Religion, World & Science
of Remembering ‘Who am I’ Series
[Listen to audio here]
[Read the transcript here]
Hello there, welcome to the 4th day of “Silence & Sound’ of the Remembering ‘Who am I’ series. The last chapter, we talked about the types of silence and understanding what is solitude. This chapter we will be focusing on understanding silence from the practices, view on religion, the world, and the science, in terms of the scientific benefits. Let’s start.
Reflect: what is silence to you? We have different viewpoints and it is fine, it is perfect. Just to understand how the world, how religion and what science say about silence, how do we embrace silence. To share some interesting finding that I have learned, in terms of culture. In terms of western culture, when there is awkward silence during meetings or during conversations, it is considered a no-no, we will try to fill in all the blanks right, that’s how we want, we don’t want to silence. But, in Japanese, it is different, because the culture that Japanese grew up with, it is taught that silence is more like a value, where they value silence which give them for them to contemplate what people said. It is considered as a virtue which is important to care and understand the needs of others. So, when there is a prolong silence during conversations, it can be up to 8 seconds. *After 8-second silence* Trying to contemplate with deep understanding and processing of what other says, that is a virtue and I love that. It is a kind of social behaviour.
What about in Finland? Something that I learned, where a Finn demonstrates interest by deep listening. It is a practice, a method of preserving harmony with nature, with oneself, and with each other. We call it a Finnish silence. It somehow became a form of tourism, how Finland advertised by this tagline “Take in the sound of quiet. Hear yourself think.” Being in this cabin, and by the view. Don’t you love this? I just love different cultures embracing silence. In terms of Native Americans, the Indians, they have different practices as well, where since young, the elders were taught silence. They practiced different ways of silence, to watch, to listen, to act. It is a practice of theirs to listen before they speak and act. I personally really value this.
What about religion, where we want to look at different types of practices in the past how silence is embrace? Let’s look at the Hinduism, the yoga Sutra. Silence is considered very important for spiritual seekers, silence allow us to absorb the higher truth. It is the time for us to absorb higher truths, it is the time to be with Lord, God, whoever you want to name it, source, universe. For saints, silence is a gateway for them to be with god, to be with themselves, and it’s also a time to acquire spiritual knowledge. This very interesting finding that I found- Lord Shiva is the silent one, where they defined that silence have different layers, from the most gross aspects duality of mind into layers of the detachment to the most subtle layers of silence. The yogis practice and dive deep into different layers of silence and finally, the last layer is where you become one with existence, there is no form, no name, it’s nothing, the nothingness, it is what they called Lord Shiva, with the existence. I am sure some of us might have experienced this. They described 3 states of waking, dream and deep sleep. So, it is basically going to different states of mind and become one existence, no form, no identification or in a state of eternal silence. I believe there are different names for a lot more other religions as well with a lot more other practices that we have.
In terms of Muslim, let’s look at Islam religion as well, they promote the practice of silence because one of the great leaders- Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, he noticed that when people are quiet, when you are quiet, you embody more wisdom because when you say things right, you are saying more unnecessary things which could lead you to lies. Interesting perspectives. So, when you are quiet, you avoid unnecessary words. The Prophet Muhammad encouraged more expansive kind of silence as well that leads to reflection.
We look at the other main religion like Christ, for people who believe in Christ, Christians, where they also encourages silence in terms of prayer in silence. An essential condition where we encounter god. A very interesting to way to look at how Jesus chose to begin his ministry by spending 40 days alone in the desert, that’s how he reflected. And the same goes to a different saints as well, as we want to understand more. Even for Gautama Buddha, many saints and leaders in life history.
Let’s talk about Buddhism. We called it a ‘noble silence’ and a name in Sanskrit – ‘Śūnyatā’, it means emptiness, voidness. It is like in the yoga Sutras, where one enter into emptiness with huge existence of no name and no from. The emptiness or the void or nothing. There is a scientific name as well. Guan Yin, *Avalokiteśvara, the Goddess of Compassion*, from Buddhism teaching, she listens in silence as if the sound of the waves. She described silence in the sound of the waves. Look at Judaism where silence is a way of practice as well, where they practice in sacred places and in different structures as well.
Now, let’s look at Tao Te Ching, they coined the term “Wu Wei”, it means effortless action. It means the value of doing nothing, inaction. Somehow it is all related. The attributes of taking effortless action is somehow related to being in silence. These are the different kinds of practices in brief, on different kinds of religions and cultures. There are more definitely, I wish to explore more.
Oh, I love how this French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, he mentioned this quote, he said that:
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”Blaise Pascal
Don’t you agree? Well, there are different perspectives to look at it, right? There is ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘don’t know’, or ‘maybe’, but, it is very interesting to just observe.
Let’s look at the science aspects of things, what are the scientific research, and what are the scientific benefits to practice silence to embrace silence right. How and when we want to practice silence in daily life, whether we want to use it in our conversations or simply practices.
One of the research that I love is that- when you type in Google ‘the scientific benefits of silence’, a lot of the results are about the benefits for the brain, it generates new cells and it prevents aging. There is one experiment they have done on mice, where they put them on silence, to listen in silence for 2 hours continuously for 3 days. The brain cells in the Hypocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory increases the number of the brain cells in terms of learning and memorising. Simply by being in 2 minutes of silence, it relaxes the body, with another research, it protects us from chronic stress and it brings reverse effects of noise pollution. Another scientific studies says that with a habitual silent meditation, as we are in silence constantly everyday, it safeguards our brain from aging. It slows down the decline of the Gray matter. We talk about the stimulation of growth of brain cells, where it generates new cells in this learning and memory region of the brain, so, quiet makes us smarter. Yay, and increase the alertness that we have, concentration and focus. All these are the unspoken benefits. Basically, telling that silence heals.
One Neuroscientist at Stanford studied that when we listen to music, there are silent intervals throughout the music, that is when the brain is at its peak activity, because when it’s silence, it triggers the most intense and the most positive brain activity. When we listen music and suddenly there is silence, the brain is now on full alertness, it’s like ‘where is the music?’ That is the peak of the activity of the mind and that is how and why silence works during presentations.
There is another benefit where silence enhances sleep and insomnia with periods of silence throughout the day. If you have sleeping problems, it is worth to try. When we are in this environment where it is in a lower input of sensory levels with minimum distractions, noise and sound, it allows the brain to recover some cognitive abilities, so we are ready for future cognitive challenges.
A summary of all these scientific researches, basically, it is telling you that silence heals. Silence promotes the growth cells in our brain. Silence allows us to restore our cognitive ability. Silence allows us to relax our body and telling the body and nervous system to relax, heal, allow restoration and reparation. Allow the brain to make new cells to make us smarter, to learn and memorise better. Awesome, that’s for today.
Just want to put an awareness on this – during ancient time. Probably one of the timeline, you know how ancients from A to B, how it was before and now, and with different period of time and different stages of life where they practice silence differently. So, during ancient times, silence is considered one of the luxuries for people, because, at that time, even now, when one has the time to be in silence, it is perceived as one is away from their responsibilities and a break from the burdens in life. So, there is a perception where silence is perceived as luxuries in life, and that will lead to more understanding about the next chapter which is on the fears and the blocks on silence. That is going to be very interesting as well where we understand why do we have fears and resistance towards silence, even for some practitioners like myself. Awesome. So, let’s get into our slow down for today, in 9 minutes.
[Guided slow down starts at 21:50]