May 01, 2017

Mindfulness 101: The Sound of Silence

Debi Galler

 

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

 

 

Paul Simon might have been on to something when he wrote those words. In today’s world, we all could do with a bit more silence.

As lawyers practicing in this digital age, we are surrounded by noise and distraction. Perhaps it is the ping of our varied electronics, perhaps it is just ambient noise from our surroundings, or perhaps it is the internal monologue that seems to go on without respite. With all that noise and distraction, it can be very difficult to find space just to think, ponder, consider, create.

 

Silence does not necessarily mean locking yourself in a padded cell or putting on noise-canceling headphones. Rather, as noted by Thich Nhat Hanh in his book, Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise, silence is actually something that comes from the inside, not from the outside. Silence does not mean never speaking or engaging or doing things; after all, we have jobs to do and bills to pay. Silence means we are not disturbed on the inside.

There may be moments when we think we are being silent because there is no external noise, but inside our mind is going off on some tangent or another. This is not true silence. The key is to be able to find silence in the midst of our hectic everyday lives.

Our inability to find silence in the midst of chaos, or at least the everyday turbulence, can result in our failure to truly connect with those around us—our clients, judges, colleagues, family. We react based on emotion, rather than after careful listening and attention. Breathing mindfully and becoming aware of our response to people and events around us is a deep and powerful practice. Instead of reacting or even thinking, we allow ourselves a moment just to be. Mindfulness can help us quiet our mind and achieve the Sound of Silence.

Often if things aren’t going exactly as we wish them to, or we are having difficulty finding a solution to a particularly vexing problem, our inclination as lawyers is to think we have to do more: think more, write more, research more, more, more, more. In fact, what we might need to do is less: less distraction, less noise, both externally and internally, so that we have space—space to be in silence, space to allow our intentions to germinate and flourish.

So take a moment and choose something to focus on. Perhaps it is your in-breath and out-breath. Perhaps it is the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind, or the rain splattering on a roof, the sound of your footsteps as you walk, or even the sound of a car honking. Simply listen with your whole being and enjoy the Sound of Silence.

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Debi Galler

 

Debi Galler is general counsel with Green Street Power Partners in Tallahassee, Florida, and has an extensive background in real estate, as well as transactional and corporate bankruptcy matters. She writes and teaches on mindfulness. She may be reached at dgaller@greenstreetsolarpower.com.