This post was written by Anthea Ong, a Newfield graduate of the Coaching for Personal & Professional Mastery program.
“See how Nature – trees, grass, flowers – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, the sun – how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa
As urbanites, we are constantly surrounded, inundated, and even invaded with external sounds and noises. Perhaps we’ve become misguided and think it is ‘normal’ to be talking, chatting online, listening to music etc… all the time.
Never in human history have we been exposed to such an array of weapons of mass distractions! Our sensory organs have become more and more accustomed to this external stimulation. This conditioning has made it deeply uncomfortable for us to be in silence and with stillness. The discomfort is certainly not biological, it is habitual.
During the Industrial Revolution, our social worth became tagged to doing—to being useful and productive. Nowadays, it is tagged to being ‘busy.’ So silence has become the much-feared antonym of ‘busy’ (or worthy).
Silence may provoke a feeling of emptiness… so we fill our lives with sounds that create the illusion of company. Underlying this dependence to sounds (and hence, activities or constant ‘doing’) is our fear of being alone with ourselves.
Ultimately, when we run from silence, we run from ourselves. To run from ourselves means to live a life that is not ours. We also lose agency in our life as it becomes dictated and managed by external stimulations and distractions rather than internal desires and knowledge.
Unless we consciously create the space for silence, we deny ourselves the space to reflect—to ask ourselves why we do what we do, why we live, how we live…. in other words, to connect with ourselves in a way that develops a sense of wholeness and meaning, that cultivates self-awareness and self-responsibility.
How to Consciously Breathe
The practice of silence is called different names across traditions – quiet time, prayers, contemplation, meditation – yet a great place to start is simply ‘conscious breathing.’
Here’s an easy breathing exercise that can be practiced any time anywhere:
- Relax your body wherever you are – on your office chair, in the subway, standing in a bus.
- Expand your chest and slowly drop your shoulders towards the floor, away from your ears.
- If you are comfortable to close your eyes, you may at this point – if you are not, you may leave them open but keep your gaze soft.
- Bring your attention to your breath. Begin by taking a long, deep inhale and slowly and complete exhale. Then, repeat three times.
- With the next inhale, listen to the sound of your breath and quietly say the words, “Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.” Harmonize your words (your mind) with your breath (your body).
- Repeat this for up to seven cycles, uninterrupted if you can.
- Take a moment to relish the stillness, the silence, and set an intention for the next thing you are about to do or for the rest of the day ahead before gently coming back to where you are.
This ‘conscious breathing’ practice can be integrated into your daily life without it becoming “another thing that you have to find time to do.” There are many ways to invite silence through the day. Here are some suggestions:
- Start your day right by letting this be the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, finish off by setting the intention for the day ahead before you get out of bed.
- End the day well by letting this be the last thing you do before you close your eyes and recount one thing that you are thankful for that day.
- Eat with gratitude by letting this breathing exercise be what you do before you dig into your plate, and that’s at least twice or three times a day, depending on how many meals you have.
- Walk and breathe consciously and observe how many steps you take with the in-breath and how many with the out-breath.
In this increasingly volatile and ambiguous environment that we live in, a daily practice of silence provides a source of great strength, and therefore, helps us become more resilient and empathetic. When we are comfortable with silence, we also become active listeners because we don’t just listen to respond… and this transforms our relationships. (Note that ‘Silent’ and ‘Listen’ have the same letters!)
We become what we practice. When we become more at ease with who we are and who we are with each other, we come to a place of inner peace.
Find out more about breathwork and learn more breathing exercises when you join one of our professional and personal development programs here.
About the Author:
A daily practice of silence through meditation, journaling and long walks in solitude, in nature saved, healed and transformed Anthea Ong from a colossal collapse more than 10 years ago. It is still transforming her everyday. For her, silence is not empty but full of answers. Anthea happily straddled between corporate leadership and active volunteerism/social entrepreneurship until Dec 2013 when she took her last corporate paycheck as managing director in a UK-listed company to fully embrace the calling of living out her multidimensional aspirations to serve through coaching, yoga/meditation, volunteerism and social entrepreneurship. Anthea is most quoted in the media as Founder of Hush, Singapore’s 1st roving silent teabar and a social movement to encourage silence and awareness to corporate executives through an engaged tea reflection experience led by Deaf facilitators, called TeaRistas.
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