The Importance of Silence

"Inward calm cannot be maintained unless physical strength is constantly and intelligently replenished."

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

Hindu Prince Gautama Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.

Recently, I have been having trouble sleeping. I thought perhaps it was the fact that I haven't been running my 3 miles three times a week, or that I am stressed about the beginning of school or the house buying process that I am going through at the same time. My brain never gets a break. It chatters to me all day and all night with the 'pings' of TweetDeck, the discussions I have with myself over the house as well as my thoughts on the book I'm reading--Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire by Rafe Esquith--(a future blog post, for sure) and all my plans for the beginning of the school year.

Tonight I made the effort to walk eight blocks to the gym for my 8pm yoga class. I left my cell phone at home, bringing only my yoga mat and my keys. As I walked, I found that I kept wanting to reach for my phone (it wasn't even there), and that my brain was spinning. At one point, I became completely disoriented and had to check the street signs--I have been doing this walk for 2 years. At the time I lost my way I was deep in thought about the basement in the house I'm trying to buy. My brain was so stressed out that I almost got lost 5 blocks from my house!

Whatever happened to enjoying a peaceful walk on a beautiful summer night? I used to walk everywhere, appreciating the houses, people and scenes that I passed by. Tonight, it was obvious that I was barely even paying attention to where I was going. I think it means that since I have developed this need to be constantly connected by being on the computer all day, tweeting away with TweetDeck updating every few minutes behind whatever I'm doing, I have overstimulated myself to the point of distraction.

As I entered the gym and walked up to my class, I tried very hard to calm my thoughts. Yoga requires a quiet mind....

I rolled out my mat and sat in half-Lotus, closed my eyes and began slowly breathing. As I drew my breath up my nose and felt my chest rise and my lungs filled with air, I immediately felt calmer. When was the last time I paid attention to my breath? To my lungs? To my fingers, toes, arms and legs? While my mind still had remnants of chatter running through it, I began channeling my breath and focusing on how each part of my body reacted to it. Yeah, I know it sounds all New-Agey, but I used to do this 2-3 times a week!

How had I forgotten to take care of myself and focus on me, not all of the distractions around me?

That's when I realized the importance of silence.

Not just the silence in the room, but inner silence. For the next hour, I breathed in and out, stretched out my limbs, calmed my mind and listened to the lone cricket at the window chirping along with the peaceful song of an oboe soloist being played on the CD player.

On the walk home, I was able to appreciate my surroundings, and I made the effort to focus on the NOW, not the chatter in my head. Of course, when I got home, I immediately opened my computer because I felt the need to express what I had just experienced. I haven't totally learned my lesson, I guess.

Earlier in the summer I wrote a post about going "OTG" or "Off The Grid." I have been doing a better job at balancing my online life with my f2f life, but I tonight I had a realization that I have been neglecting myself and not listening to what my body and brain really need: inner silence.

As any educator would do, I extended this experience outside of my own realm to my students. Should we be teaching kids, who are constantly connected and whose brains may not get the rest they need for proper development and learning, how to find inner silence? How will our kids balance their own lives?

Here are some studies I found on children, television and sleep. I'm sure there are more and that there will be more and children spend more and more time 'plugged in.'

Pediatrics report: Television-viewing Habits and Sleep Disturbance in School Children

Science Daily: Television Watching Before Bed Can Lead to Sleep Debt

Research Abstract: Nightly use of computer by adolescents...

quotes from
child yoga photo from:
first yoga photo from Wikimedia Commons
trees photo from Flickr-Powerhouse Museum


  • I know I have some of the same problems. Sometimes, I just ride home with nothing on. No radio, no phone nothing but the car sounds. Not like Yoga I know but it does help clear my mind. Reading does that too. I am working on reading a little this summer. Finished 2 books and it was enjoyable. Forgot how much fun fiction can be.

  • What a timely post, as we begin the school year, and become even more overloaded with ideas, plans, concerns, and day to day challenges. Love the connection you made to students and the importance of sleep. How about teaching students how to medidate or how to do yoga?

  • Great post! Teachers are so busy taking care of others that we forget we have an inner self not as demanding of our attention but requiring it as much as outer demands do.

  • "Music is the silence between the notes."
    (Claude Debussy, 1862-1918)

  • Thank you for your very appropriate posting for the beginning of a new stress (er, school) year.
    In my decades of teaching, I've come to realize the value of sharing silence and calmness with my students. Because my students are from an area where helicopters fly overhead and time is sometimes punctuated by gunshots, it's especially important.
    "Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself"~Hermann Hesse
    btw: Enjoy the Esquith book!

  • Part of this problem is created by being on the grid 24/7 - FB/Twitter/MySpace/e-dating and so forth - our minds never get a break.

  • Thank you all for sharing your own strategies for finding inner silence as well as some wonderful quotes. I hope we remember to not forget ourselves as the school year starts and do what we need to stay centered and calm (as possible!) so that we project that calm onto our students!

    Good luck all with the new school year!

  • Great posting. I intend to share this with my friends and colleagues alike.

  • Ekhart Tolle's "A New Earth" and "The Power of Now" speaks to the principle of quieting your mind (not thinking) to be one with life. Three ways to be unconscious in life (just going through the motions) tv, drink spirits, and THINKING.

  • Feel free to share this with anyone and everyone!

    As for watching TV, drinking and thinking, at least I have the TV watching thing down. I hate TV, but a nice glass of wine with dinner and a constant quest for new knowledge make the rest of it hard!

    Thanks for your comments!

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