Silence

Several years ago, I read the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Around the same time I also read Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise by Thich Nhat Hanh, so my memory may possibly be mixing these two books together. Anyway, one section from Digital Minimalism that really stood out to me and that I remember clearly was the section on the importance of silence, or allowing time for yourself to ‘digest’ all the information you have accumulated throughout the day. I feel like this is something a lot of us don’t really consider that much these days.

Many of us are so focused on ‘productivity’ or just keeping busy that we leave very little time for ourselves. Taking myself as an example, I used to have a pretty consistent meditation and mindfulness practice, but in recent years I spend the majority of my time doing stuff. When I’m tired and I go home, I often turn on music or the TV and sit around listening/watching, or maybe using my phone or reading, but it’s less common that I spend time just resting, or walking just for the sake of walking, etc. The problem with this is that even during rest time, we are still constantly exposing our minds to new information and stimuli, which doesn’t allow for ‘true’ rest. Is it any wonder why we often feel so exhausted and run-down?

Have you ever been trying to remember something or figure something out but you just can’t, and then hours later when you’re no longer thinking about it, the answer pops into your head? That’s because our subconscious minds are still at work even when we are doing nothing; they’re always fitting together pieces of the puzzle in the background, whether we’re aware of it or not. I have even read convincing arguments that the subconscious mind is more important than the conscious mind when it comes to creativity. I can’t remember the specific people mentioned in the book, but there was mention of several noteworthy people who emphasized the importance of taking walks (and often very long ones). These people said that some of their best ideas came while just walking and allowing their minds to wander and daydream. This is also how I think of ideas of what to write about on this blog! If I’m doing nothing or walking around, sometimes an idea pops into my head and then I just add it to my list to look at later.

This idea could also be extended to include other things beyond simply the lack of noise: visual stimuli, information, reading, etc. My theory is that too much of any of these things can be detrimental. In photography, for example, I would imagine it is not necessarily a beneficial thing to overexpose yourself to other people’s photos. Of course, as a beginner it might be beneficial so that you can learn, but at a certain point we need to rely more on ourselves (that’s not to say you shouldn’t allow yourself to enjoy others’ work). I’m sure I mentioned this before in a different post, but in order to develop our own style, it may be more important to spend more time looking at and evaluating our own photos. How can we have our own ‘flavor’ if we are constantly steeping ourselves in other people’s work?

As always, feel free to reach out to me if you have any comments or would like to discuss this further!

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