To complement the article “Be Well: What Do You Need?” in the August 2014 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: Making a regular practice of observing periods of mindful silence can help massage therapists reduce stress and improve mental clarity and focus.
The fast pace, stress and pressure of daily life, not to mention your daily work, can result in constant mental chatter within your mind. A regular practice of mindful silence can help you slow down and re-center yourself so you can maintain a positive, energetic presence and be the best massage therapist you can be. In the following excerpt from the book Your Redefining Moments: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be, author Dennis Merritt Jones explores the power of silence and offers a practical exercise to incorporate into your self-care routine.
Are you comfortable with silence? I mean long, sustained periods of deep silence without any audible sound whatsoever. Do you value and seek silence in your life, or do you tend to avoid it?
Before you read on, sit quietly and ponder what silence means to you. Take a deep breath and consider how it feels to intentionally sit and think about silence in this moment. Do you ever stop what you are doing and listen to what’s going on around you as well as within you? Right now, is there silence in your immediate environment or noise swirling around you? Is that noise outside you, inside your head, or both? The reason I pose these questions is because it is in the sustained moments of silence that a vacuum is created in which a redefining moment may be actualized. Oftentimes, it can be well after a redefining moment happens when, either by intention or chance, you enter a window of silence and reflection and actually experience the impact of that moment.
The power of silence
Silence plays such an important role in our lives, yet we seldom intentionally pause and anchor ourselves long enough to listen and appreciate the power and potential for authentic connection silence brings. In my mentoring practice, working with individuals who desire a career in public speaking, I point out the effectiveness of taking an intentional pause every so often, just to allow the listener to catch up and absorb what is being said. Some professional speakers refer to that purposeful pause as “dropping the rock.” After saying something you would like to have sink in, take a deep breath and, as you release the breath, visualize yourself dropping a rock into a deep pond of water, watching it slowly sink to the bottom while at the same time observing the ripples of silence emanating out toward your audience before continuing with what you are saying. The ripple effect of intentional silence can be far-reaching when you communicate with others. Among other things, it helps create a stronger sense of connectedness or intimacy between speaker and audience—even if your audience is just one person.
The same can be said for when we mentally talk to ourselves. The ripple effect of silence can be profound if we are willing to pause, enter the silence, and listen to the quiet. If you are like me, there are times when your mind is on a roll and doesn’t want to pause and take a break. If you can be conscious enough to observe your thinking mind zipping along at a breakneck pace, you can choose to stop the mental chatter by intentionally hitting the pause button, taking a deep breath, and mentally dropping the rock. The deeper the rock sinks, the more calm, serene and silent the moment at hand will be.
As any scuba diver knows, the deeper you go, the more still the water becomes. The same is true for the practice of descending into the depths of inner silence, taking the vertical plunge to the center of our being. The question is, how much silence can you bear? Just consider how many redefining moments you may have missed in the past because you made no provisions to pause and intentionally enter the silence of this inner reflecting pool where the authentic self awaits you in perfect stillness. How deep are you willing to go below surface living to reconnect with who you truly are?
While silence opens you to experiencing the absence of noise, stillness is a state of mind you bring into your daily life. Mindful breathing is a practice that helps you bring stillness into your day; it is the invisible conduit through which silence makes itself available to you 24/7. As you become more skillful in the practice of mindful breathing, you will become far more available to the present moment where your defining and redefining moments await you.
I invite you to try this four-step Mindfulness Practice and experience the power of silence and reflection:
1. Imagine your conscious thinking mind (where the incessant mental chatter is in full expression) as the surface of a very turbulent ocean. Witness the conversation in which your mind is engaged. Don’t judge it, and don’t converse with it—just observe it. By simply acknowledging it from a nonparticipation perspective, you deplete much of its energy.
2. Picture yourself holding a beautiful rock, knowing the rock symbolizes your intention to enter silence. Just breathe and be with that intention for a moment.
3. Take a deep, cleansing breath and drop the rock into the water; notice it slowly sinking down, down, down … and out of sight. Then continue breathing consciously and slowly, and notice the sense of calm that arises from the depths of the intentional pause you have taken.
4. With your breath comes calm, and with calm comes stillness, and with stillness comes the silence within and the opportunity to reflect. It is in the stillness of this silence and reflection that you fully merge with the sacred presence of your true self; it’s also where you’ll find the elusive peace you so often miss in the noisy busyness of daily life.
Dennis Merritt Jones (www.dennismerrittjones.com) is an inspirational speaker, personal spiritual mentor, Huffington Post columnist, and author of several books in addition to Your Redefining Moments, including The Art of Uncertainty: How to Live in the Mystery of Life and Love It and The Art of Being: 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in Your Life.
“The Powerful Practice of Mindfulness” is excerpted from Your Redefining Moments: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be by Dennis Merritt Jones. Copyright © 2014 by Dennis Merritt Jones. Published by Jeremy P. Tarcher, an imprint of Penguin, a division of Penguin Group USA, a Penguin Random House Company.