How a Book About Silence Allowed Me to Finally Understand Mindfulness

An introvert practices mindfulness

Mindfulness should come naturally to introverts — who already spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting — though it may take some practice.

Like most introverts, I often have thoughts in my head all throughout the day — so when I first heard about mindfulness and “quieting your mind,” I wasn’t able to fully grasp the concept. How do people do that? How do they temporarily just not think about everything all at once? 

I often find the inner dialogue in my head to be a constant thing. It goes on all throughout the day, whether I’m planning what I’m going to do or say next, or I’m just thinking things through. That inner narrator is always talking and making sure there is some type of noise in my head, even though, as an introvert, I do have moments of silence throughout the day when I’m recharging or taking a break.

True Silencing of the Mind — Something We Can Work on as Introverts

According to Mindful.org, mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” I thought I had a pretty good grasp on mindfulness until recently, though, when I learned that true mindfulness often includes temporarily shutting down that ongoing inner dialogue.

This realization came when I was reading the book Silence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge, which is about the power of silence in our lives and how it affects our well-being. When I first heard about the book, I thought that maybe the book is saying if you sit in silence, then you can find yourself and know yourself better. I later realized that it’s more about finding the silence within, even if there’s noise around you. In other words, to stop thinking so much all the time and just be — which is something that really takes conscious effort for introverts.

The book also talks about how social media wants us to be only temporarily happy and it gets us addicted, always seeking more in our lives. By disconnecting from that and embracing silence, you become in control; you create silence within and experience life instead of overthinking. On a related note, the book mentions a “dopamine loop” and explains that we’re always programmed to want more and more, even if we have reached what we originally wanted. It’s easier for us to keep going after something rather than accepting that we have what we wanted because that wouldn’t be satisfying to us as human beings.

I can relate to this because I’ve had times where I’ve felt like if I reach a certain goal, then I’ll be happy. With time, and by practicing mindfulness, I’ve realized that it’s important to see each moment as good enough and to not live through other people and things. The key is to enjoy what you have in the present moment, and to gain your power back by being able to have that silence and peace instead of constantly comparing yourself to others, or thinking that what you have isn’t good enough.

Another quote the book mentions is by Roman philosopher Seneca, who argued 2,000 years ago that, “Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future. When they come to the end of it, the poor wretches realize too late that for all this time they have been preoccupied in doing nothing.” As an introvert who often gets lost in her thoughts and spends a lot of time reflecting, this quote spoke to me. Having that silence in your mind is important, because if you keep not being in the moment and only thinking about the past or future, then you can’t truly experience your life to its fullest potential.

“The opposite of silence is… Thinking.” –Marina Abramović

What stuck with me most from the book was a small part where the performance artist Marina Abramović, who “has made silence into an art form,” was mentioned and how she said, “[T]he opposite of silence is a brain at work. Thinking.” After I read that, it clicked that if you just stop that inner dialogue — the one that’s constantly thinking — then you can experience true silence and be in the moment. As I read it, I decided to try it out. I temporarily paused my inner dialogue as I was sitting there. Oddly enough, I hadn’t tried doing that intentionally before, even when I had tried to be in the present moment by not thinking about the past. But when I just stopped the loop of thoughts for a few seconds, I was surprised that, for once, I was in full silence and it felt extremely quiet, in a peaceful but surprising way. I looked up from the book and felt more awake and alert.

How Silence in Your Mind Feels

It seems so simple to just mute that inner dialogue, and maybe to some who often practice mindfulness, it is… but to others, it’s hard to grasp the concept of stopping the inner chatter. And it’s not easy to do. Sometimes it can only be done for a few seconds at a time. But it takes practice, and it’s worth it — because in that moment that you silence your mind, you will feel the difference within, and it feels amazing. To me, it kind of feels like being on autopilot, then snapping out of it and coming back to reality (the present moment). It also reminds me of the feeling of when you fully smile, and how doing that makes you feel happy.

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How Mindfulness Can Be Applied to Our Lives as Introverts

For introverts, there are many ways for us to incorporate mindfulness into our daily routine and ways to practice it for longer periods of time. A few of these include:

  • Focus on something physically in front of you. Sometimes, even when I try to focus on the things in front of me — whether it’s the poster on the wall, the water bottle on the table, or the view of the tree out the window — I am partly focusing on it, but my mind is also somewhere else. But when I bring myself back and focus on the specific object, rather than thinking about everything else (or thinking about the fact that I need to focus on this thing), then I’m able to bring myself into the present moment. 

    Another way to do this is picking a certain color and finding different things around you that are that color. If I lose focus, I try to change it up and find something else that is green, or choose another color to look for.
  • Try walking. Erling Kagge has another book about walking and how it can benefit us. It’s titled, Walking: One Step at a Time. In it, he talks about how when he’s on his walks, he “gradually becomes part of [his] surroundings.” He “become[s] one with the grass… the trees and the air.” Mindful walking has many benefits, including improving your mental health and lowering your risk of health problems, such as heart disease or stroke.
  • Meditate. In her Introvert, Dear article on mindfulness meditation, Angela Ward talks about how it can benefit introverts and ways to get started practicing it. She mentions following guided meditations on YouTube or on meditation apps, which “will introduce you to the basics of mindfulness: deep breathing, body scans, and mindful awareness.” You can use an app like Insight Timer, Headspace, or Calm.  Apps like these send daily reminders to your phone, too, with moments to pause throughout the day, which I find helpful.

Some other ways to practice mindfulness include joining local meditation workshops or using mindfulness books or kits that provide activity ideas. One of my favorites is a box of Mindfulness Cards, made by Rohan Gunatillake’s company called Mindfulness Everywhere. These cards are guided mindfulness cards with inspirational phrases and exercises on each card.  

When it comes down to it, you may want to try out a few different mindfulness methods and see which work best for you.

Practice Makes Perfect in Experiencing the Power of Silence

Practicing mindfulness consistently through these exercises — or through any other techniques — helps to quiet your mind and truly be in the moment more and more. Being able to quiet your mind, even when you are surrounded by noise, is something that is very important and helpful — especially for introverts who crave that quiet alone time to recharge. As Silence: In the Age of Noise explains, having that silence within, even if there’s noise around you, doesn’t mean not paying attention to the things around you. But, instead, it means enjoying things in a new way and living a more fulfilling life.

The more often and longer you are able to practice mindfulness, the better you get at it and can start incorporating it into your life. Silence can make a big difference in our lives and can make us feel at peace. When we are feeling overwhelmed with all that is going on around us, or even in our minds, it helps to unwind and get away from that noise. For that reason, silence is something that’s powerful, not only externally, but also within ourselves. As introverts, this allows us to embrace our quietness even more!

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I graduated from CSUN as a creative writing major. I’m an introverted person, but often an extroverted writer! I love to express myself through creativity, whether it’s writing, art, or music. I've written pieces for places such as San Gabriel Valley Now and The Love Story. To see more of my creative pieces, follow my Instagram page @tothebeatofmyart.