On Exploring Silence with Words

*not my picture, obviously.

Silence. Quiet. Wordlessness.

How does one go about explaining, exploring, these concepts with… words?

You can’t. Not really. What I write here, what I think with words in order to write here, does… cannot… capture or even express what it is to explore silence.

And what does that mean anyway?


This is not to tackle the idea of absolute silence, or as close to the idea of absolute silence as we can get. “Absolute silence” is a kind of silence that humanity can only find in the vacuum of space. I’ve read, heard, been told… that in the vastness of space, enclosed in a space suit with Earth beneath you floating as a very fragile green and blue marble, shining in the darkness, that you can only hear your heartbeat and breath.

Floating there, tethered to life, surrounded by a vacuum that cares not for any living thing, and even there we cannot know silence. Not absolute.

Still, more than what we can find in our every day lives.

I sit here in a coffee shop on a Wednesday morning. There is jazz music playing. A woman and a woman speak together, their voices rising and falling with the emotions of their conversation. The men who sit next to them (a boy with them watching a show), are equal in their noise, though their rise and fall is more in laughter than in words.

There is a homeless man sitting at the table next to the men. He wears headphones and appears to be listening to music, twitching and moving as he listens, looking around, paranoid, as if he will be told to leave, but this coffee shop is also a non profit to help homeless youth. He will not be ejected.

His person screams this concern; just as loud as the sound of dishes in the kitchen, the espresso machine steaming milk.

Even if no one existed, sounds still prevail. The humming of the air system. The sound of an airplane. Car. Truck with loud pipes.

Birds. Wind through tree leaves.

Water against a pebbled beach.

The inability to eliminate noise all together.

But why would we want to? Why would I want to?

There is a sense that noise pollutes. That as we move through life we fill ourselves up with noise and we do so in order to separate ourselves from… ourselves. From others. From looking and being seen too closely.

We walk around with versions of headphones on, trying to lose ourselves in something outside of ourselves.

The silence is to bring ourselves back to ourselves.

I’ve taken many yoga classes. I have never taken a yoga class in silence. I’ve sometimes wondered what would happen if I came across such a class. I would like it, I think. I often practice in silence at home… in that I mean there is no music, television, teacher, or other input. We’ll ignore the gurgling of an air diffuser; the sound of birds; dogs barking; trucks on the highway; plane overhead.

Would those classes be full? Each yogi on their mat, not distracted from the song or the voice of the instructor. Just themselves.

Or would the silence unnerve people and no one would show up. At least to the second class.

I feel like there is awareness that the noise around us is too much. Too much input from the phones in our pockets to the television that’s always on at home. However, I would not be surprised if I did a survey of individuals in this coffee shop and I am the only one thinking… and talking… about the concept of silence and how the noise feels… wrong, somehow.

For some, that might be the case, just as for some the concept of silence is a balm and for others it is a terrifying abyss.

There is no right or wrong to any of it. There is no binary. It. Just. Is.

And that’s enough.

But what if, just is…

…is in silence?

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