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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Silent Power

Silent Power
In the chaotic world of words and noise, silence talks.
Nona Walia discusses the strength of meaningful silence

WORDS, the song goes, are all we have. We are constantly exhorted to express, to speak, to talk, to communicate. So, what happens when you decide to resort to silence for days, weeks, and sometimes even months on end?

Silence as a mode of communication is difficult to practice and to comprehend. We tried to interpret the power of silence in the modern world and discover the changing alchemy of silence amidst complex relationships. We admit being silent is tough. However, our experiments with silence for this story were unique.

Silence is a language in itself. It's more powerful than billions of words put together. We spoke to creative geniuses, writers who go through long phases of silence; dancers who believe silence is shantam or peace; lovers who use silence as a device. I have experimented with long periods of silence. It brings stillness. It gives you a certain energy, which is lost if you talk uselessly.

Silence is loudest in rocky relationships. Ameen Merchant, author of The Silent Raga, agrees, "Two conflicting people can portray their love through silence. In my book, two sisters who can't get along, communicate their love through silence. I often ask myself, can a song be silent? It can. Silence is the most powerful response. You don't always need to glorify emotions in words."

How do you plead your innocence in relationships and situations if you decide to be silent? According to Stuart Wilde, author of Silent Power, situations can be won by being silent.

"Yes," says writer Advaita Kala, "Being silent works. I was silent once for one-and-a-half years in a relationship, it worked. We don't always need words to communicate our feelings. Silence screams innocence. I've dealt with volatile situations by being silent." When couples are silent, responses to each other become logical, and problems get resolved. Writers go through these long silent phases. They're introspective and self-obsessed. We need the silence. "It's frustrating to be in a world, when everyone's increasing their pitch and desperately trying to be heard. You don't need to be an activist in life always". Advaita adds.

The interpretation of silence in a dancer's life is rather understated and unique. Meet Yamini Reddy, 25-year-old Kuchipudi dancer. "Silence in dance is shantam or peace. When there's a very fast, rhythmic movement, I pause for impact. It's a silence to understand what I've done. While dancing to a Buddha sequence, silence is portrayed as calmness. It's a gap. In relationships, silence is a beautiful language. It's respect, submission, compliance. It's a cease-fire. My husband and I communicate through silence when the noise gets too much."

When Times Life spoke to Donal Carbaugh, professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts and author of Cultures in Conversation, about silence, he said, "Silence can mean an absence or a negation, but it can also assert a stance that demands attention, and eventually, one hopes, an understanding." He adds, "Finnish people believe in silence and believe being quiet is healthy. They don't regard 'shy' as a negative word... but believe shy people have guts."

Silent power works and becomes your unspoken credential. It's a charisma that gradually grows. Around you is a subtle electromagnetic body of energy that is sometimes called the subtle body and is normally unseen by the
naked eye. If you're silent, the energy increases around you.
Mahima Chopra, 30, says, "I had a tiff with my boyfriend. After accusations and counter accusations, it felt horrid and I didn't know what to do. I just went silent. After sometime, the situation improved. Silence healed the turbulence of emotions."
Silent retreats are popular. No talk. No words. Just a pause. Says yoga guru Vikas Malkani, who organises silent retreats, "Silence is your connection to your soul.

This is where true power resides. You begin to see life with clarity." Have you ever used silence to make a point? Asra Nomani did. She was a mother out of wedlock. She faced flak when her boyfriend did not take the responsibility of the child. She went on to becoming a single mother using silence as her only defence. "I believe that staying still, calm and silent when there is a storm around you gives you inner strength. This is a timeless, universal teaching," says Nomani.

Theatre person Amir Raza Hussain believes, "Silence is a device. It allows you to digest emotions. Actors use it to underline a dialogue, good actors use it sparingly. But sometimes you do need to speak up, though not like a blabbering idiot."

Silence is also a powerful communication tool. It gives many messages. There will always be some people who misunderstand or misinterpret it though. Says psychiatrist Dr Avdesh Sharma, "When we talk, a chain of thoughts gets translated into speech, it is loss of energy. We think 30 thoughts per minute. In silence we think 5, when we're agitated they go up to 60. Silence slows down our thoughts. This reduces the chance of misinterpretation."

Used right, silence communicates trust. When used in love, it shows we care. It can be a sword too. Silence is far easier to punctuate than language. We just need to choreograph quietness. As your confidence level grows, you will find it easier to include moments of quiet. "The silent points are punctuation points that help you hear the composition of life," adds Sharma. All it takes is strength of silence to resolve a complicated dialogue.

A hush of words, a pause to kickstart your lost chance, all over again! [email protected]


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