Summer adventure led me to one of the youngest islands – Iceland. This frontier land of fire and ice, as Icelanders call it, is also a land of wonder and astonishing silence. The absence of trees covering the majority of the volcanic land results in few birds chirping and a void that was unfamiliar yet alluring. Many miles of lava rock, as far as the eye can see, along with the marsh-like moss created a sound barrier providing a deafening silence to the terrain. This silence was intoxicating.
We are commonly surrounded by a digital world and urbanization moving us away from true peace. The first lack of connection to one’s self begins with the detachment experienced with silence. Silence is necessary for us to recuperate from a frenetic world and allows us to be intuitive. Silence is sometimes viewed as awkward when present in conversations. This presence of silence in downtime may lead to feelings of guilt and slowing down, yet the exact opposite is true. After returning to the U.S. from Iceland, this idea of silence continued to present meaning to me as one of our most significant tools towards healing. The Global Wellness Summit, which is comprised of 500 wellness experts from 45 nations, gathered recently to discuss the future of wellness. They identified eight wellness trends that would identify the future direction for the wellness industry. Silence therapy was one of the global movements on the list. Countless trends are emerging in spas and wellness centers, such as; silent restaurants, silent meals, and silent spa treatments. It is no surprise that silence is increasingly selling. From noise cancelling headphones to tourism campaigns explaining Finland’s tagline to lure travelers to visit there which reads “Silence Please.” A Duke University study found that two hours of silence daily incited significant cell development in the hippocampus. This is the brain region related to the formation of memory. As research examines that both depression and dementia associate with the hippocampus, who know how future therapy related to silence may help these conditions.
Countless cultures honor the use of “silence” as a tool for greater introspection and the strengthening of one’s intuition. We all have the ability to have a healthy dose of intuition. This is our ability to possess a deep perception of truth that comes from within. In our noisy world we can move away from this truth. Imagine that over 500 years ago Polynesian navigators made countless voyages across the open sea using only their intuition, experience and vision of the ocean – no GPS or digital aide to rely on! With the influx of technology we have forgotten how to use our senses. In the Icelandic culture intuition is referred to as “Innsaei”. There are three connotations to this word. It means “to see within” which means to know one’s self. The other explanation is “to see from the inside out” which is to have a strong inner compass. The final definition means “the sea within”. This last definition relates to the borderless nature of our inner world and that a part of nature is within us. It is impossible to quiet the mind and establish a relationship with silence without a connection with nature. Nature is the silent witness of intuition. It’s the inner eye, the inner ear and it revives intuition.
Practicing meditation, in nature surrounded by peace and quiet while surrendering of all digital devices are ways to come closer to “Innsaei.” Our innermost sanctum must be free from the environmental pollutants of ambient noise so that we can listen to the “silence” within ourselves, and thereby understand what silence is trying to tell us. There is a message in this silence more powerful than words. In the Japanese culture silence is synonymous with “truthfulness.” Our ability to hold silence as a fundamental gift in our everyday life may very well determine our future happiness.