A Simple Way to Deepen Contemplation

Last week, I shared the meme pictured below on our Facebook page. In this quote, Thich Nhat Hanh says silence is essential. In fact, he says it’s as necessary as the air we breathe.

Seeing this, a family member mentioned that silence is difficult for her because of her challenges with ADHD. She did say, however, that she sometimes experiences silence when listening to music.

I mentioned that I often use music as a support for prayer and meditation. I’m particularly fond of Native American flute music.

There’s a reason music is such a good support for deepening silence. The key isn’t the music itself (although some types of music are definitely more supportive than others).

The key is the listening.

When we’re fully engaged with what we are listening to our thoughts naturally subside.

Therefore, listening to sounds in the environment, for instance, can settle the mind.

But what happens once the mind becomes more settled?

In fact, the more advanced version of this practice comes into play as we learn to listen to silence itself.

Listening to silence is a simple (although not necessarily easy) way to deepen silence.

Notice what the Greek philosopher, Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570 – c. 495 BC), had to say about listening to silence:

Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb the silence.


I want to be clear that listening to silence doesn’t mean ignoring sounds in the physical environment — including the sounds of your own body. All sounds are included in this practice as they naturally occur.

You do, however, connect more deeply with the underlying silence — especially as thoughts subside and you find yourself resting in objectless awarenesswhich I’m sorry to say doesn’t happen every time we practice. When it does, however, that’s a time to connect deeply with silence.

By connecting deeply with silence, you are nurturing your relationship with it and making it part of your new reality. This allows silence to become imprinted on every cell in your body. Silence becomes a priority.

Finally, when listening to silence, be sure to listen with your whole being. It’s not about “hearing” the silence but becoming completely receptive to silence on every level.

Doing this will lead you directly into what the Christian tradition refers to as contemplation. The Buddhist tradition calls it objectless awareness or nonmeditation.

As Father Thomas Keating once put it, “Contemplation is when interior silence morphs into presence.”

Deep listening is a simple way to deepen contemplation.

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Kimberly Holman

Kimberly Holman is a certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher (MMT) with a B.A. in psychology from the University of Maine and an M.A in religious studies from Naropa University.