Recently, I found myself immersed in an introvert wonderland in the mountains of northern Thailand. While attending a yoga and meditation retreat at a tranquil ashram, I experienced silence in a whole new way.
I was with a group of about twenty participants, and though much of our practice radiated a quiet energy, there was still, of course, a fair bit of conversation at meal times and throughout the day. It was uplifting to meet others on a similar journey, and I was enjoying making new friends. However, in true introvert form, after a couple days I found myself losing steam and seeking solitude.
Then, on the third day, something wonderful happened. Our instructors informed us we were going to enter a period of collective silence (!) after our evening discussion. We were not to speak until the next afternoon. I was, to put it mildly, ecstatic to be given this permission to remain quiet.
Since leaving “wonderland” and returning to real life, I’ve thought a lot about why silence is so powerful, especially for introverts. Here are four reasons.
Why Silence Can Be Powerful for Introverts
1. Silence gives us space to process our experiences.
In a world full of continual distraction, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to tune out all the noise. As introverts, we probably try more than most to limit our exposure to external stimulation, but even home alone, we still fall prey to a barrage of notifications to click, messages to answer, newsfeeds to scroll, and TV shows to binge.
That’s why the internet-free retreat resonated with me so deeply. Through both stillness and movement, our aim was to tap into that inner source of sensation we can only truly experience when we become quiet.
We came from different backgrounds, countries, and generations, but each of us landed at the ashram because we were searching for meaning, growth, and a sense of balance in our lives. Growth is continual, comes in many forms, and looks different for everyone, but it served as our shared goal, bonding us together in the moment.
During this time of silence, I reflected on my needs, nurturing them within instead of exposing them to outside elements or offering them up for dissection. From this place, I listened to my inner voice speak uninterrupted. This helped me focus on my intentions for the retreat and gain clarity on the mindset I was hoping to cultivate.
2. Silence invites us to appreciate our surroundings more deeply.
When it was nearing time to speak again, we decided instead to stay quiet, because no one was ready to shatter the sound barrier quite yet. Later, when we did open our mouths to circle up on cushions and discuss our quietude, many of us remarked on the heightened connection we felt to our surroundings.
It was like silence infused the day with magic. At sunrise, I basked in the warmth of the sun on my face as it peeked into our yoga space. At breakfast, I stared intently at the silhouette of rolling mountains in the distance as I ate peacefully, taking pleasure in each bite. During a walking meditation in the afternoon, I marveled at the intricate movements of my bare feet touching the ground as we crisscrossed the open-air ashram single file. I listened to the sounds of nature and noticed details like cracks in the floor and moss growing on the walls. At night before bed, I stared in awe at the bright stars glittering in the quiet darkness and felt the presence of the nearly-full supermoon glowing above my head.
While there was no missing the beauty of the place, it took the sweet euphoria of silence to feel at one with my temporary home.
3. When silence is shared, you connect on an intuitive level.
Experimenting with silence in a group setting was powerful and moving. As an introvert, I am no stranger to quiet and solitude. Though I have a roaring river of dialogue running through my head at all times, most of my thoughts are never verbalized. I am their protector and they feel safest hidden away. For me, the challenge isn’t learning how to listen to my inner voice — I do plenty of that. I’ve come to realize what I actually need is a way to release and share my feelings — once in a while, at least.
Truly connecting with others is tough for me. I’m guarded and don’t open up easily. I often feel like I’m playing a role when socializing and not really engaging as my true self. Keeping people at a distance is more subconscious than meditated, and just kind of comes naturally.
That’s why it felt special to exist in a silent community, even ever so briefly. With no pressure to express myself verbally, and no excessive conversation to drain my energy, I felt less disconnected and more a part of something unique. Each of us was quietly experiencing our own inner transformation, yet we were doing it together.
My fleeting connection — to myself and to others — in this beautiful space was palpable, and it taught me that I don’t always need words to express myself.
4. Silence nourishes the body.
Silence isn’t just a means to a more enlightened end. It literally heightens our well-being by reducing stress, lowering our blood pressure, and even regenerating brain cells. Introverts love talking about how we need to recharge our batteries after being around people for too long, because it’s a great way to visualize how we replenish our energy. Well, science says our brains need the same thing.
Taking a break from pesky external stimuli can help us improve our memory, empathy, and creativity. Finding little ways to incorporate silence into your day — screen time not included — can have a big impact on your health. Silence can be still or dynamic, and experimenting with different techniques can help you find what works best for you. For some it might be yoga and meditation, but for others it could be journaling, taking a walk, or simply switching off electronics and enjoying a quiet meal undisturbed.
As for me, though the retreat may be over, I’m choosing to keep wonderland alive and well in my mind.
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Image credit: @stellabella via Twenty20