The Power of Silence

 In Neuroscience

Silence. An invisible virus – the coronavirus – has imposed silence on the world.
I didn’t seek it, but here it is sitting next to me, staring at me like a young child that I am supposed to feed every hour, every day.
That hungry look of silence used to drive me nuts.
What do you want, I used to ask.
Don’t you see how busy I am? Places to go. Calls to make. Emails to send. Parties to attend. Shopping to do.
Read my list of Things to Do! It is longer than yesterday and you want me to do what?
Be silent? Meditate? Don’t check my phone? Not text? Not watch. Pay attention to this moment?
No, no, no – I have a lot to prove, a lot to accomplish, and a lot of I-don’t-know-why-I-am-doing-this stuff.

Life has its ways, wouldn’t you say? Events trigger an abrupt and uninvited pause in our lives. We try to grasp and understand the irony and timing of this change, its immense power and hold over us, its ability to challenge our intellectual abilities, and the slow and soft realization that life’s lessons are almost always delivered in the most unpredictable ways when we least expect it.
We see the impact of this change. We feel it. We hear it. It is stunning. It defies sound bites.

Did you notice? Animals, birds, and fish are now free to roam without fear of man and his tendency to cage and conquer everything that lives on this planet. The coronavirus has reversed roles. The oceans are free to flow without trash. The animals and birds and fish watch us in our cages. Things are reversed now. Perhaps they are talking to each other wondering if we realize what it means to be caged and isolated from loved ones like they were. Every change brings with it lessons delivered with a thud.

We look back at who we were and we learn. After all, that is what it means to be human, right? We hope we will remember. We hope our children will remember all the lessons delivered to us at this hour. There are no perfect answers. Only wise questions. It is in the folds of silence that the journey of life starts to unfold. Silent. Still. Nowhere to go, but inwards. The power of change – unwelcome change.

Writes Pico Iyer in his book, “The Art of Stillness” (visit by Maria Popova, who distills the best wisdom from time immemorial):
“We’ve lost our Sundays, our weekends, our nights off — our holy days, as some would have it;
our bosses, junk mailers, our parents can find us wherever we are, at any time of day or night.
More and more of us feel like emergency-room physicians, permanently on call, required to heal ourselves but unable to find the prescription for all the clutter on our desk.”

Ignore the parent part! I am a parent and heck, yes, what use is technology if I cannot reach my kid when I want?

Breathe. Embrace silence. These are the lessons that we have been passed on to us from time immemorial.

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