In Pursuit of Silence the art of seeing stillness within yourself. Photograph: PR Company Handout
Perhaps the most well-known silent social is the silent retreat. Recently featured in an episode of BBC comedy Fleabag, silent retreats vary in tone and intent, and are more popular than you might imagine. The retreats often have a religious or spiritual component, with Buddhist, Christian and Catholic retreats constructing up the majority. They can last anywhere between a couple of days to a few weeks, set in places that are usually fittingly pastoral, in old farm buildings or country piles.
Silent retreat regular Peter Cadney first discovered the power of stillnes on a 10 -day vipassana silent meditation course, in 2013. The technique emphasises developing a connection with stillnes and accessing the stillness within yourself.
There had been a number of events in my life that I hadnt been able to deal with very well; things like relationship breakups and the death of a close friend. Id spent years working at a computer and was feeling the effects of muscle tension, nervousnes and stress. I felt drawn to finding somewhere quiet to sit in order to discovery peace within myself.
Cadney tells silent meditation has helped to improve both his mental and physical health. When I first sat down in silence, it felt very peaceful. I started noticing just how many guess were coming and going in my mind, it was as if there had been no space for silence.
Cadney has since given up his office job and now runs as a holistic therapist. As soon as I sat down in that meditation hall I thought: this is where I am supposed to be.
Swiss Artist Salome Voegelin also detected a purpose in silence. However, rather than determining stillnes soothing or nulling somehow, it instead opened her intellect to the revolutionary potential of hearing. She describes stillnes , not as the is a lack of audio, but as the beginning of listening, though she has some reservations about the egotistical propensities of the current trend for silent getaways.
While these events are contemplative and respectful, I wonder how much of the silent listening is expended preoccupying about ones own silence rather than hearing others and the environment, she says.
Voeglins book, Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art posits stillnes and noise not as opposites but as different objectives of the same spectrum. “Were not receiving” true silence. Its a state that allows me to hear my breathing in tandem with yours, the rumbling of my belly, the gurgling of the radiator. It provides a time out. Its when we start to listen to each other.
Silence assumes a new meaning in an era in which we are consuming information and engaging in dialogue with one another endlessly, without ever opening our mouths. While we may watch The Pursuit of Silence and enjoy the absence of audio, how many of us will be seduced to check in with our emails, tweet our thoughts on the film? While we might find pleasure in those rare and cherished moments of peace and quiet, when it comes to stillnes and stillness, can we muster up the self-restraint at all?
In Pursuit of Silence is on release now .