Thich Nhat Hanh week: Fear of silence


Today, he really gets to the crux of the issue: the fear of being with ourselves. I noticed this strongly when I was getting up at 5am, day after day for six months.

The biggest thing to overcome was the fear of the silence, the peace, at 5am. I loved it and feared it. I’d rush to fill it by checking the internet until I gathered myself to go for a walk. I made a rule, “no phones” on the walk, and it was a good rule. During the walk, there was no phone, no time, just me and the world where the moon and stars live.

I haven’t been getting up early in the last couple of weeks and the days haven’t been the same. It’s easy to justify sleeping later, “Oh, I’m working longer hours, more tired …” and so on, while underneath it’s what he says, the fear of being with myself before going out into the starry night, and the feelings that are there that I don’t want to experience: sorrow, loss, aloneness.

“I have the impression that many of us are afraid of silence. We’re always taking in something. Text, music, radio, television or thoughts to occupy the space. If quiet and space are so important for our happiness, why don’t we make more room for them in our lives?


I know a woman whose daughter loved to go to sitting meditation at the local Zen temple and encouraged her to give it a try. The daughter told her, ‘It’s really easy, Mum, you don’t have to sit on the floor, there are chairs available. You don’t have to do anything at all. We just sit quietly.’

Very truthfully, the woman replied, ‘I think I’m afraid to do that.’

We can feel lonely even when we’re surrounded by many people. We are lonely together. There is a vacuum inside us. We don’t feel comfortable with that vacuum so we try to fill it up or make it go away. Technology supplies us with many devices that allow us to stay connected. These days, we are always connected. But we continue to feel lonely. We check incoming email and social media sites multiple times a day. We email or post one message after another. We want to share, we want to receive. We busy ourselves all day long in an effort to connect.

What are we so afraid of?

We may feel an inner void, a sense of isolation, of sorrow, of restlessness. We may feel desolate and unloved. We may feel that we lack something important. Some of these feelings are very old and have been with us always, underneath all our doing and thinking. Having plenty of stimuli makes it easy for us to distract ourselves from what we’re feeling. But when there is silence, all these things present themselves clearly.”

~ From Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise by Thich Nhat Hanh



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