What Is the Difference Between Silence and Meditation?

Last Updated on April 16, 2020 by Sloane Marie

While most people will automatically dismiss this question, we think learning the difference between silence and meditation is a very understandable question. After all, it really just looks like someone is sitting in silence when they meditate. While meditation often includes silence and tranquility, it is more than just being quiet.

What Is the Difference Between Silence and Meditation?

Silence is essentially abstaining from talking or making noise. In a monastery or nunnery, people may deliberately take a vow of silence so that they can focus their mind in a simpler, more conducive environment.

Meanwhile, meditation is a way of going beyond the mind. Depending on the type of meditation, it may involve developing a state of no mind. In no-mind, you have stilled your mind so that there are no thoughts, feelings or desires. You are basically aloof from the world and apart of it.

Please take this opportunity to learn more about meditation by reading our guide to mindfulness meditation, as this will give you a greater understanding of the techniques and benefits of meditation.

What Is the Difference Between Silence and Meditation?

No-mind is certainly not the only type of meditation. There are other types of meditation that involve focusing your mind on a koan or a flickering candle flame. In other kinds of meditation, you might just watch your thoughts so that you learn the cycles that your thoughts progress through. In still other types of meditation, you work to develop qualities like compassion or loving kindness.

We are not here to say which type of meditation is the right one. If you are deliberately working to train your mind or still your thoughts, we think that you are already on the right path. If you are just trying to sit in silence though, you might not be doing it right. The main difference between silence and meditation is in your intent and how you carry it out. While we certainly love sitting in stillness and silence, it is not going to actually train your mind.

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Do You Need Silence to Meditate?

Actually, there are some benefits to meditating in a noisy, chaotic environment. In theory, the best meditators are able to live as a part of the world instead of separate from it. If you have spent years practicing meditation, you will be able to meditate and focus your mind in any environment.

Unfortunately, meditating is not easy when you are surrounded by chaos and noise. Because of this, many people start out by meditating in silence. They may set aside a room for meditation or just turn off the television. In this environment, it is easier to watch your thoughts and focus the mind.

In nunneries and monasteries, practitioners will often start by meditating in silence. Over time, they may be given tasks or chores to do while they meditate. When I was hiking at Lion’s Head Mountain in Taiwan, I saw many monks and nuns out sweeping the steps or cooking food. Many of these people were most likely meditating while they did their daily chores. They had progressed to a level where adding a task was possible. Eventually, their goal would be to meditate 24/7 throughout every activity they did.

Silence Is Important, Too

The difference between silence and meditation is not always clear cut. Many people cite meditation’s ability to hone the mind, reduce stress and promote tranquility. In reality, silence can do many of the same things. When you are constantly surrounded by people and activity, it is hard to focus on yourself. Outer silence can help you listen to your mind and your inner thoughts. Silence is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and understand your inner motivation.

There are a number of people who are actually afraid of silence. Perhaps they regret something they did or feel guilty about the past. They may just be uncomfortable with listening to their own thoughts. Whatever the case, sitting in silence seems to unnerve them. Once they are silent, the only noise is from their own mind. It is an opportunity to see how your mind moves and how you think, but you might not like it if you do not like how your mind operates. During the silence, you may re-experience feelings of guilt, anger or revenge. Before you can enjoy the silence, you have to learn how to calm the monkey of your mind and get it to sit down.

With meditation, you deliberately relax your mind and focus on your breathing. In traditional texts, it is said that focusing on the breath was the way the Buddha achieved enlightenment. This is great for you because focusing on the breath is a very simple concept to understand. If this is not your favorite way of meditating, don’t worry. There is no real “right” way to meditate. Many cultures and sects have had different styles of meditation. As long as you have chosen a type of meditation that you are willing to practice, how you practice matters less. The main goal is to make sure that you do practice. Over time, you will start to understand the difference between silence and meditation.

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