Moments of Silence

“You come into a room, there is furniture, pictures on the walls, and things. Then those things and the pictures are removed and you come into the room---now what will you say? Will you call it empty or will you call it a full room? Room means “emptiness”; room means “space.” With the furniture removed, the room is full. When furniture was there the room was not full; much of it was missing because of the furniture. Now the room is complete, the emptiness is total.” – Osho

     One of the greatest human fears is silence. During a break in conversation, we cough or fidget just to fill that pause. We use the television or radio to get to sleep. The 21st century’s cures for silence are the smartphone and social media. Last weekend while having lunch I sat next to a table of four college students. At every gap in their discussion, all four of them would check their phones. At first glance this may seem like a minor glitch in modern day human interaction. To me it is more concerning.

     Why do we feel the impulse to check Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Are we really interested in what our roommate’s cousin had for breakfast? Do we really care about the “Top 10 Things To Do With a Paperclip?” I don’t believe so. We are conditioned to perpetually stimulate our mind. If we are not working or sleeping, we are desperate to keep ourselves occupied. We are afraid of silence because it may lead to loneliness or boredom. However, if we allow this phobia to consume us we deny ourselves moments of true happiness, fulfillment and inspiration. By crowding our mind with mostly useless information and activity, we are putting up obstacles in the way of independent thought and creativity.

     No matter what our professions are, how old we are or where we’re from, we all have daily opportunities to be contemplative. When waiting for a bus at a busy intersection we can observe the beautifully chaotic world around us. When lying in bed we have a chance to meditate on an interesting conversation we had that day. If we make a conscious effort to see these moments of silence as windows for self-reflection, we will find deeper meaning in the activities of “everyday life”. If we commit to being fully present in all experiences, we will feel stronger emotions. Instead of repressing sadness, we will let it pass through us. We will appreciate moments of aloneness as catalysts for personal growth and introspection. As soon as we pick up our smartphone or check a social media outlet, these trains of thought are derailed.

     Let me be clear. I am not anti-technology or anti-social media. Facebook and Twitter have given a voice to people who were previously unheard. These platforms allow us to correspond with friends and family abroad. However, we have to be conscious of how we are using them. Social media makes everyone a journalist. Articles are posted that are often biased or misinformed. With only 140 characters at our disposal, we may tweet or read something without nuance or supporting arguments. This leads to anger-based conflict rather than respectful discussion. The conversation ends before it begins. These posts and the ensuing comments add to the pile of information under which we are constantly buried. When this endless flow of mostly superficial thought consumes our minds, there is no room for critical thinking.

     Osho stated the quotation with which I started this entry well before smartphones or Facebook were invented. But his words ring true today more than ever. Whenever possible, let our minds be empty. It is at these moments when we are most capable of change, innovation and bliss.