Music is a complex and intricate blend of sound and silence. Dr. Helen Lees the author of Silence in our Schools goes on to say that “A natural silence for people to tune into, to develop, to come towards, that is helpful for living and learning, developing and understanding, interacting and knowing. Silence brings peace, healing, joy, simplicity, and truth. It brings about the laying of foundations of understanding.” In her book, she likens silence to precious resources, something that needs to be sourced in order to capture its power of transformation.
I first experienced true silence during an all-day cross-country ski trip. Being at the back of the pack and knowing I was not in top shape, I went at the back so I didn’t hold anyone up. Occasionally, I stopped after a particularly difficult hill and pretended to adjust my boots, or take off my gloves when in fact I was catching my breath.
During one of those stops, the group in front of me disappeared around a bend in the trail, and suddenly I felt a blast of silence. There was no sound or transfer of vibration or wind in my ears. It made me stop and immediately brought my whole being into clear focus. I felt a reverence for all that was around me, and I made sure not to turn too fast, knowing this feeling would end.
I was not scared. Soothed by silence’s embrace, I felt almost hugged by nature, heard it telling me, “Here is your moment, enjoy.”
“Jennifer are you okay back there?” **My friend called back to me. The moment was over. I was sorry to have to respond but wanted to assure all that I could make it (albeit barely) and continued on our trek. Never before had I experienced silence in such a powerful way.
In speech, it is in a moment of silence that one also fully appreciates the intentionality of what has been said. The listener understands that he is being singled out and “spoken to.” Silence provides a pocket of space in which the sound just heard can be processed and consciously responded to. It is the listener’s opportunity to react and give something in return. Silence can also be used to create anticipation for what comes next.
Music uses silence in the same way—to capture your attention, to lure, to grab hold, to hug, to suspend the listener through a silent pause. **It ensures you escape from sound, leaving room for an even greater impact the next time. By giving you the space you need, it propagates the energy of the music and leaves you hungry, desiring more.
Exercise: Just Breathe
For those of us who are feeling extra sensitive to sensory stimulation, when just leaving the house in the morning can feel like a challenge here is a short exercise to use.
And that’s it.
The research is clear that three deep breathes can reduce your fight or flight response. By breathing more deeply you can break the cycle of anxiety. Breathing exercises can help reduce tension and relieve stress, thanks to an extra boost of oxygen. While shallow breathing, a marker of stress, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, deep breathing does the opposite and helps us to calm down.
Did you know that nearly half of all workers suffer from moderate to severe stress while on the job, according to a recent survey. And 66 percent of employees report that they have difficulty focusing on tasks at work because of stress. Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21 century” by the World Health Organization and it costs American businesses up to $300 billion a year.
What’s more, breathing exercises have been proven to support the systems that can be harmed by stress. A moment of silence with just deep breathing can reduce blood pressure and may even be able to change the expression of some genes. Everybody has an overwhelm point. It is different for everyone. Many of us just keep pushing through the stress but our goals of accomplishment and productivity become much harder to achieve in this state. With the simple act of three deep breathes anywhere you are, you are combating those stress responses and putting your body in a healthier place to better cope with whatever is to come.