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Silent meditation, as its name suggests, involves eliminating any noise around you, including music or a teacher’s guidance, and cultivating an awareness of your body in the present.
Buddhists have practiced this type of meditation, also called unguided meditation, for more than 2,500 years. Jenelle Kim, DACM, author of Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation, says this practice traditionally aims to focus on mindfulness in order to foster calmness, clarity, and acceptance.
There are multiple approaches to silent meditation, including vipassana. The name of this approach comes from a Buddhist term that means to see things as they truly are. According to Laurasia Mattingly, a meditation and mindfulness teacher and founder of The Sit Society, this practice involves sitting in silence and observing your thoughts and emotions without judgment.
Here are some tips on how to practice silent meditation and what benefits it has.
“Silence doesn’t necessarily require meditation. It might involve.”
- guided instruction
- mantras, which can help you stay focused and grounded in the present moment
- Nature sounds or music.
In fact, many people prefer guided meditations. In this approach to meditation, a teacher offers instruction through each step of the process. Guided meditation can prove especially helpful for beginning meditators as they get comfortable with the practice.
“In silent meditation, there is no music to fall into, no voice to tell you what to think about and no sound vibration to zone you out,” explains Dominica Fisher, Director of Meditative & Creative Exploration at BIÂN.
The biggest difference between silent meditation and other types is that you have control over where your thoughts lead. Fisher says that silent meditation is about understanding you have control over your perception and that is what makes it so powerful.
The benefits of meditation are well-studied.
According to a 2017 research review, meditation can help:
- lower anxiety, Depression., and stress
- Increase your understanding.
- Increase attention and focus.
- improve sleep and overall mood
A 2012 review also found that both sitting and silent meditation may help you better regulate your emotions, including negative ones, so they don’t overwhelm you. Researchers noted these emotional regulation skills may be particularly useful for people living with specific mental health conditions, including:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental disorder.
- There are fears of phobias.
Silent meditation in action
The 2012 review suggested that meditation can help shift how you respond to negative stimuli.
Say our partner looks at you, raises their voice, or ignores you. Your instinct might involve a response.
But if you’ve been practicing silent meditation, you may find it easier to pause, reflect on how their behavior affected you, and calmly explain how they made you feel without jumping to any conclusions about their intentions.
- reduced stress and improved ability to manage stress
- A sense of joy and enthusiasm.
- Increased focus.
- Higher levels of energy.
- better quality of sleep
- improved ability to listen and connect more deeply with others
- There is greater clarity in a range of situations.
- Increased awareness of your health issues.
According to Fisher, silent meditation may also help calm your fight-or-flight response and promote a state of relaxation in its place. As a result, this practice may make it easier for you to stay calm during stressful situations, or when you encounter something you perceive as a threat.
Instead of remaining in a state of worry and concern, which can flood your system with potentially harmful stress hormones, you learn to rest and repair, explains Fisher.
“Mattingly says that silent meditation isn’t necessarily for everyone.”
It might be difficult to stay in the present moment in total silence. If you are new to meditation, you may want to start with guided meditation until you are comfortable with your own practice.
According to Fisher, silent meditation generally proves most effective when you already have a basic understanding of certain techniques like breathing and body scanning, plus a good strategy for anchoring yourself when your mind wanders.
Kim says that if you notice that you finish silent meditation more frustrated or stressed than when you started, it may be time to try a different type of meditation.
It may take some time
“It can take up to 90 days of daily practice to see positive changes. You may not notice the benefits of silent meditation until later. It may be worth sticking with it a little longer if your practice doesn’t seem to have any negative effects.”
Fisher encourages you to experiment with silent meditation and be kind to yourself.
It is possible to quiet your mind on some days. It is next to impossible to quiet the noise inside your head on others. Both experiences are ok. You may need more time to strengthen the mental muscles involved so you can get what you want and need out of the practice.
Mattingly suggests that you just take a short break with just 5 to 10 minutes..
Mattingly and Fisher have a method for practicing silent meditation.
- Get comfortable by finding a quiet place to practice. You can sit on a cushion or chair with your feet on the ground.
- Set a timer for your practice. If you want to avoid a loud alarm sound, opt for a gong or soothing sound.
- Close your eyes and relax.
- Pick an area you want to focus on. Fisher suggests starting with the breath by looking at where your belly and chest expand and contract and how the air feels in and out of your nostrils. Below these steps, you can find two breathing exercises.
- You can choose to move on to your body. Try to relax the parts that are tense. Notice how the air feels against your skin.
- You can also try a body scan. starting with the top of your head and gradually moving down to your toes, simply notice any physical sensations you’re feeling.
- You should shift your attention to the outside world. This might involve smelling the room, noticing the temperature, or hearing the humming of a fridge.
- Try to observe any emotions without judgement. There is no right or wrong way to feel in this moment.
- For example, past or future, reminiscing or planning, come up with a simple labeling system for those thoughts. When you begin thinking about something that distracts you from meditating, simply label the thought and then shift your attention back to your body.
It is completely natural for your mind to wander while meditating.
Fisher says that it is part of the practice to simply note your thoughts and then move on. Doing so can strengthen your muscles.
Fisher has a recommendation.
- Box Breathing: Breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, and then exhale through your mouth for four counts. Repeat three to four times.
- 3-Part Breathing (Dirga pranayama): Inhale into your belly, sip more air into your rib cage, and finish by letting more air fill your upper chest and collarbone. On the exhale, let your breath first escape from your upper chest and collarbone, then your rib cage, and finally, your belly. Repeat 10 times.
You may feel the need to pause between each part of these breathing exercises until you get more comfortable with them. Eventually, you’ll likely find you can transition between each part smoothly.
Kim explains that the main principle of silent meditation is to bring your attention back to your breath when you get lost in thought or distracted.
“Kim says that silent meditation is one of the most difficult types of meditation. When you don’t have a voice guiding you through the process, distractive thoughts are more likely to bubble up.”
It is possible for anyone to master it.
Mattingly recommends starting and sustaining your practice of silent meditation under the guidance of a teacher in order to get the most out of the experience.
You can start your search for a meditation instructor by using the directories.
- The InternationalMindfulness Teachers Association
- There is a directory for mindful.
- The center is at Brown University.
“You can still try silent meditation on your own if you can’t access a local teacher.”
You can find silent meditation videos online.
The videos are a time-honored way to start and end your meditation.
Prefer to try guided meditation first before transitioning to silent meditation? Meditation apps can help you get started. A few options to consider include:
If you find a teacher on Insight Timer who really meshes with you, Mattingly suggests you look for them online to find out if they offer one-on-one coaching.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with longer silent meditation sessions, Kim recommends participating in a retreat for a deeper level of reflection and contemplation.
The retreats can vary, but participants generally refrain from talking for the entire duration. This includes yoga classes, reading, and any other activities.
When to reach out
At that point, experts recommend reaching out to a therapist or other licensed mental health professional for more support.
“Many times, meditation is used in conjunction with therapy,” says Fisher. “No single approach is right for everyone, and more often than not, these practices are combined for personal wellness.”
Silent meditation can be very rewarding. Eliminating sounds from your environment can help you focus on anchoring yourself in the present moment and boost your awareness of what is happening internally.
“Silent meditation may not work for everyone. Start with a few short sessions to see if it’s right for you. You might want to seek guidance from a certified meditation teacher.”
And remember, if you don’t enjoy the practice, you have plenty of other meditation approaches to try.
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based writer who writes about health and fitness, food, lifestyle, and beauty. Her work has appeared in a number of publications.