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Daily Zen

Three pieces of advice for taming silence

Three pieces of advice for taming silence

Here’s my invitation to take a looooong breath and relax before reading the following lines…….

This little piece has been written listening to the purring of Lala ( a zen cat, if there is such a thing) so I invite you to take a loooong breath and relax before reading the following lines …

The theme is – as the title suggests – silence. Silence in all its forms, all the nooks and crannies, from the earth to the sky, the cellar to the attic. But above all, silence in daily life. For it’s there, in the heart of our endless days, that the hubbub seems to cover our lives, in a way that is just as incongruous and disagreeable as a woollen blanket in a sauna. Yuk!

And yet, if we look a little closer, our environment isn’t so noisy. And even in the heart of the city, once the metro stops, it is possible to savour some little drops of suspended silence.

The question that engages us here is the following: where does all this noise come from? This hubbub, racket din, ? To respond, we installed some consenting and unpaid guinea pigs in the meditation posture in the heart of Paris, with the following assignment : prick up your ears, listen to the sounds of the world … then report back. ( Note that we did this little experiment in a totally ethical way: no human being was harmed in the making of it… except the employee of a well known bank, for whom the 30 minutes of meditation, not moving, without a telephone, was like being tortured.) So, after zazen ( zen meditation) , the participants emphasised two things:

  1. There’s a lot less noise in the city than you would think.
  2. But by comparison, in their heads it was a complete circus! Thoughts running around in all directions, completely incoherent and never stopping for a moment!

And this eventually leads us to know the real theme of this article: how to find inner silence. What to do to stop this washing machine of thoughts, the spin cycle set in our heads, and move into ‘wool’ mode. Or – to say it the Buddhist way – how to plainly see and accept these thoughts completely, even if they are still fizzing around. Ommmm …

What a big agenda! Fortunately there is a method available to us, which allows us to tame this silence, step by step : the silence cure. Here is the prescription, carefully established after years of tests, experiments and apprenticeships in the laboratory of life.

The dosage.

The silence cure consists of retreating from the world for a period: a weekend would be ideal, but a morning , even a few ours, can suffice. During this time, you will become aware of your actions and thoughts through a variety of methods. This state of awareness has the goal of reconnecting you to the present moment, to the thing you are in the process of doing at that moment (like reading this article) in the place where you are (here, now) etc. Doing this, with your body and thoughts in unity, will change your perception of life.

Here, for example, are some ‘exercises’ to do during your cure.

Practice 1. Silence of the eyes.

For 5 – 10 minutes lower your gaze in front of your, on the ground, at a 45 degree angle. Let the eyelids soften, the eye muscles, even the cheeks… Keep the eyes half closed to have full Presence, a complete awareness of what you are doing.

The probable result : a new connection to the body, thoughts calm down, the mind which has wandered off in one direction learns how to focus once more.

Practice 2 . Silence of the ears.

In a dynamic posture, seated or standing, once more become aware of the noise of the universe in which you are bathed. Hear sounds that are near or far, different tones, everything that surrounds you. Suddenly a question pops up : the sounds you hear, are they internal or external?

The result. You centre yourself once more. You touch once more a certain sense of presence, of the awareness of being alive, here and now.

or not. In that case, try the next practice…

Practice 3 Silence of the body.

Our body often has emotions running through it. Mostly they are unconscious ones, but they leave traces in our state of being. To encourage the natural circulation of emotions and to allow them to actually pass through without stopping, there is nothing better than to tune in to the breath. TO reconnect, to invite it sit at the table of life.

Result : having awareness of the breath is the first step towards calming. From connecting with it, the breath shifts to the abdomen of its own accord, and spreads its strength,

Do this often and in all situations.

Precautions for use.

It goes without saying that this cure is impossible without the silence of words. Mobiles and other electric gadgets should be in airplane mode ( warn your friends and family) and you should resist the pleasure of commentating on your experiences in real time on Twitter. Off. Silence. Disconnected from the world … for a time of your own choosing.

I also recommend some inspiring material to have around you, to sow some seeds of wisdom in your mind.

Side effects.

To feel for the first time an emptiness, a loss or another emotion that isn’t very nice. This is a transition. A shift from a hyperactive life towards a moment of calm. The secret of getting through it is quite simply to accept it. Loss is primarily a physical sensation, impermanent, ephemeral, which will disappear as soon as you welcome it.

But once you have got through loss, a great sensation of freedom may fill you: the freedom of silence and solitude that you have welcomed in, when you wish, for an authentic life.

Going forward.

If these few lines have inspired you, you can find many exercises, examples and stories in the book – “The gift of silence” ( Yellow Kite Publisher – january 2018)


Some very good places to practice meditation in UK : http://www.izauk.org/


THANKS TO HILARY MAC RAE for the translation ! :-)

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