Guest Contribution from Dr. Thara Vayali
There is a lot of noise out there in the big world; The din of the city, the sounds of the office, the sirens, the speakers, the swell of festivities. These can be overwhelming as we try to process our audio world, and our senses can be dulled as we try to cope.
The small sounds of nature get drowned out not only by our man-made sounds, but by the over-powering sounds of nature itself; winds through trees, heavy rains,and rushing water. Very few times in our lives do we have a chance to revel in environmental silence.
This constant external stimulation gives us even more reason to cultivate a quiet on the inside. This sound of silence exists all the time within us, if we can find a way to listen.
When given a chance to listen to our inner world, we may find that it is just as noisy as our outer world, if not more so. Noticing the quality of the quiet inside is one ways to take action for our mental health. With simple self check-ins we have a way to sense what the quiet inside is doing for us, and adjust it so that the volume and quality can be turned to a level we can thrive within.
Quiet on the inside is something we all have naturally, so we just need a little reminder to observe it. I like to describe quiet in four different groupings, within which are the varying qualities that effect how we think, feel and filter our experiences – we may tend toward one type of quiet more than another; or toward one that doesn’t serve our situation. Mental wellbeing comes from becoming aware of how we become quiet and choosing behaviours that help us.
There have been multiple authors, poets and thinkers who reflect on the types of silence that exist, which I’ll categorize expand on and add to below:
The Go-To quiet (fleeting calmness)
First Aid – when the mind/senses are overwhelmed/worked and a moment of grace is granted, but will soon be bustling again; A place of pause, non-doing, relief – a break.
The Doing quiet (busy mind)
Thinking – when intellect is in its element with thought and process having a dance together; A place where we are present, but only with ourselves – mono-tasking.
Noisy – the “bite your tongue” moments or episodes of quiet rumination; A place of resentment, self/other judgement, sullen – a quiet chaos within.
Curious – aware of possibilities and fertile ideas; A place of interest, exploration, unquenched desire – engaged & intrigued
The Feeling quiet (attentive)
Sober – feeling the depth & breadth of a situation, leaving us speechless; A place of shock, sympathy, perspective.
Listening – presence with another’s perspective. Genuinely interested in their experience, their words; A place of expansion, connection, spacious conversation.
Distancing – when we are baffled and/or resigned to the situation at hand; A place of apathy, non-understanding, disconnection.
The Being quiet (at ease)
Rhythmic – finding ourselves absorbed within our creative selves. Distinct from thinking quiet; A place of flow, timelessness, pleasure.
Captivated – when we are taken by an experience, allowing something to unfold in front of us; A place of alert perception, excitement, awe
Trusting – this arrives when we find restful slumber or daydream; A place of safety, release, surrender.
Peaceful – where we find ourselves in accord with our surroundings, where we can be alone, together. A place of co-existence, acceptance, patience.
As you browse through this list, you will notice that all quiet is not the same. Everyone has quiet within them. We are not introverted nor extroverted wholly. Take a moment and ask yourself about the quiet that commonly appears on your inside.
Print this list out, underline your tendencies and circle the qualities you would like to pursue.
One of these “quiets” is likely to arrive within us daily, so we have at least one opportunity to check in and choose every day. Some of these quiets will be easier than others to change, but the benefit is primarily in the noticing. Over time, noticing transforms into possibility and choice.
Three steps to balancing your quiet, daily:
Find just one moment a day when you find yourself not speaking and ask yourself:
- Which quality of quiet am I experiencing right now?
Once you have a sense of that:
- Do I find my answer to #1 is unchanging daily and is this quiet serving me right now?
If you find that you are consistently experiencing one quality of quiet, or if it is not helping your headspace:
- What is one step that I can take today to discover and actively foster the kind of quiet I want to feel within me?
For further reading, I’d suggest visiting a selection of articles by Maria Popova, where she collates and reflects on adult & children’s books on the value of quiet:
Thara Vayali is a Naturopathic Doctor & Yoga Teacher in Vancouver and is also a UBC alumnus. She is obsessed with intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. She is the creator of Change Natural Medicine: Budget conscious, membership based health consulting.