There is a difference between inner and outer silence, but neither one is so much a lack of noise as it is a space to listen. Inner silence already exists within us beneath a heavy layer of mental and physical distractions, and with practice, you can access it even in a crowded room. When we learn how to silence the mind — or rather how to find the silence that already exists — we gain the space and perspective to truly hear ourselves think and tap into our intuition.
Explorer and author Erling Kaggee said, “It is more painful to thaw out frostbite than to freeze in the first place.” For some of us who have been steeped in noise and mental chatter for so long, finding silence will be uncomfortable at first. A general fear of silence exists throughout our society, and not for bad reason. It is vast and mysterious, but it’s also where truth exists. Remember, as you “thaw out” to find silence, it may be challenging at first, but it’s worth it. You will have moments when everything clicks, but it requires lifelong practice and growth.
5 Ways to Silence the Mind
- Confront the fear: to confront your fear of inner silence, start exposing yourself to small doses of outer silence. Allow yourself to just sit in it without feeling the need to fill it or distract yourself. If panic starts to rise, try a grounding technique. For example, channel attention into five things you see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
- Find flow through action: Flow is about being fully immersed in the moment. People in a state of flow often lose track of time because they’re focused on the task at hand. Inner silence is inherent in a flow state, whether you’re finding it through something like writing, hiking, exercising, or solving an equation, but the task itself is important and will be personal to you.
- Use sound: Ironically, you can use sound to access inner silence, whether that’s a specific kind of music, white noise, or the noises of nature. There’s also a lot of research showing that frequency of sound also matters when it comes to mindset. Certain frequencies like the solfeggio frequency (432 Hz) are considered healing, good for anxiety, and good for intuition. It resonates inside the body, lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
- Create signals: You can use physical cues and rituals to mentally check in to silence. Signals can be anything that communicates with your body that it’s time to tune into your own thoughts. You might take a five minute walk, or if you're stuck on a plane or in the car, listen to a certain song or practice a series of breathwork. For example, place a hand on your belly; breath in through your nose and out through your mouth for six, slow breaths.
- Practice self-compassion: Be gentle with yourself when you struggle to silence the mind. As your thoughts wander back to loud places, lead them back to stillness without judgment, no matter how often it’s necessary.
Silence Is Golden
Although its origin has been lost, the phrase “silence is golden” still shows up in our modern vernacular. In the 1800s, it was referenced by the poet Thomas Carlyle who said that his interpretation was this: “Speech is of Time, Silence is of Eternity.” It’s a beautiful proposition — that silence will exist before us and after us, and that to tap into it is to tap into something infinite. If that’s all too overwhelming to consider, think about it like this: silence is just a quiet place where we can finally hear ourselves think.