Power of silence: Reflection on The Paradox of Our Age

Our lives have become unimaginably complex and paradoxical. We do more, but get less done. We know more, but lack insight. We seek purpose, but lose meaning. The complexity in our external lives had made us morally and spiritually shallow: Our criticality has replaced our curiosity, our rationality trumps our compassion.

Was life always so complex? So paradoxical? I look at my nephews (ages 8 and 3) and think not. Is this complexity just a part of growing up? Maybe, but shouldn’t it be that the older we get, the wiser we become to exercise judgement in realizing the faults of our self-made complexity? Is this complexity the inevitable result of living in our society? Perhaps, but it shouldn’t be the case that our lifestyles stagnate our inner development. It should be the other way around, in fact.

Our complexities make us “sophisticated,” which comes with “sophisticated tastes,” and so we seize to enjoy everyday life and crave things more “sophisticated.” Our complexities consume our lives, leaving us with no space for higher pursuits, such as love, service and self-awareness. We have to do this, do that, and we continuing doing. And in craving and doing, we lose what came so easy to us in childhood:  a state of being.

So what to do about all this complexity? I think we must first realize the things that make our lives so complex, to specifically identify those things which consume our mental and physical space. Is it your phone? The internet? Your professional work? Friends? Is it a particular thought or feeling?

I think the next step is practicing silence. Once you’ve identified your complexities, exercise putting them aside for an hour daily and maintaining silence. Silence is not just the absence of speech; it is the presence of an inner stillness.  So during your hour of silence, work on being still internally by calming your thoughts. One way to do the latter is to focus on your breath.

This may seem tough, but the very act of silence will help us reflect, and to some degree, simplify those complexities which make our lives so complex and paradoxical. Shedding the layers of complexity will lead to a better understanding of self and will help us maintain inner stillness in this fast-paced world. As Pancho says, “Sometimes the most radical thing to do in a polluted violence-based system, is to be still. The mud settles to the bottom and we then have a clearer vision about our next steps.”

For more on silence, watch this video on being alone, read this article on the importance of solitude in leadership, and watch this video on the man who stayed silent for 17 years!

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About Ranjodh Singh
I'm currently an Ally in the Public Allies New York Apprenticeship (www.publicallies.org). Through the apprenticeship, I'm partnered with NYCRx (www.nyxrc.org), a nonprofit organization that improves the health of New Yorkers using public health interventions. I'm excited to continue serving, but doing so closer to health and medicine. I'm also enjoying NYC, which I find to be an enriching environment.

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