In “The True Secret of Writing”, Natalie Goldberg says:

Behind writing, behind words is no words. We need to know about that place. It gives us a larger perspective from which to handle language.

She hikes with a friend – they do the first half in silence, they talk on the way back. This kind of deliberate silence means choosing not to speak – making silence rather than making utterances.  She recommends spending an afternoon not speaking and still going about your life and interactions.

You’ll be surprised how little anyone will notice you are quiet. Everyone is too busy talking.

Still snowy trails
Still snowy trails

Yesterday hiking alone on the still snow-covered mountain trails the loudest sounds were water, rushing snow-melt,then wind in the trees then birds and animals. I found I was paying attention to and noticing the sounds of nature. I felt connected to my surroundings in a different way.

Journal prompt: What do you hear when you walk in silence? Try walking for 20 minutes or more, paying attention to what you can hear. Write about the experience.

This makes me think about conscious silence and unconscious silence, silence we choose rather than silence we experience in a lack of company. For example, when I hike alone  I am naturally silent, when I hike with others there will often be conversation. lf I am at home alone there may be no human voices unless I switch on the radio or answer the telephone. When other people are present I may be speaking or listening, or being silent together.


Sound of water
Sound of water

Journal prompt: What is your relationship to silence?

Did you grow up in a noisy family where you had to fight to be heard, where everyone talked?

Did you grow up in a family where no one spoke  or where some people didn’t speak?

Is silence a politesse or a rudeness according to your social code?

“My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence.” ― Edith Sitwell


6 thoughts on “Silence”

  1. I’m not good at silence. When I’m with other people I often feel obliged to fill silences. Maybe it’s because I worry that they will think I don’t want to be with them. I shall make a conscious effort to work on silence. Thank you for a thought provoking post.


    1. Rosalind, it’s often the case that some people feel they have to fill the gaps in conversation, perhaps because they want to put people at their ease or because they are uncomfortable with silence. I like to remember that, for example, at a dinner for 6 people only 1/6th of the responsibility for conversation is mine!I’m glad you found this thought-provoking.


  2. Silence is not something that I get to experience very often. However, I can remember times when I was able to be alone. It is amazing how much you can hear when all the talking, technology and other busy sounds are shut off. Not only do I struggle with shutting all the outside busyness off, but my mind is always going fast forward. I agree with both of you. I value it highly.


    1. Jennifer, the amount of noise around us that technology makes is quite amazing these days. then there’s the white noise our own minds generate. Being able to shut out all of these does take work – it’s definitely something we can struggle with.


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