02/06/2012 08:25 am ET Updated Apr 07, 2012

The Power of Silence: Learn How to Drop the Rock

"The Pause; that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, however so felicitous, could accomplish it." -- Mark Twain

"For many of us, the waters of our daily life are anything but calm because we don't create conscious space for intentional breathing or silence as part of our daily experience ... When we pause and breathe consciously, we open the portal to the Presence and enter a sacred silence where the waters are always calm." -- Excerpt from, The Art of Uncertainty -- How to Live In the Mystery of Life and Love It

I have been a devoted fan of silence for many years. Silence plays such an important role in our lives and yet we take it for granted; that is to say, we seldom anchor ourselves in the present moment long enough to listen and appreciate what silence brings. As an example, have you ever been in a conversation with someone who never seemed to take a breath -- they just pummeled you with rapid fire words? It's times like that when I think a new recovery group called, "On-and-on-and-on" might be worthwhile.

When mentoring individuals who desire a career in public speaking, I point out the effectiveness of taking an intentional "pregnant" pause every so often, just to allow the listener to catch up and digest what is being said. Some professional speakers refer to that purposeful pause as "dropping the rock." The practice is to take a deep breath and, as you release the breath, visualize yourself dropping a rock into a pond of water, watching it slowly sink to the bottom while, at the same time, observing the ripples of silence pulsating toward your audience before continuing with what you are saying. The ripple effect of intentional silence can be far reaching when communicating with others.

Of course the same can be said for when we are mentally talking to ourselves; the ripple effect of being in silence can be profound if we are willing to enter the silence and listen to the quiet. If you are like me there are times when your monkey-mind is on a roll and doesn't want to take a break. If you can be conscious enough to observe your thinking mind zipping along at a breakneck pace you can choose to stop the mental chatter by intentionally taking a deep breath and "dropping the rock." The deeper the rock sinks, the more calm, serene and silent the moment at hand will be. As any scuba diver will testify, the deeper you go, the calmer the water becomes. The same is true for the practice of descending into the depths of inner silence.

The question is, how much silence can you bear? Some of us are rather addicted to run-on noise because it offers abundant opportunities to avoid being alone with ourselves. Making friends with silence offers us the perfect opportunity to make peace with that part of ourselves that feels separate and apart from the sacred presence within.

To experience the power of dropping the rock, consider trying this mindfulness practice:

  • Imagine your conscious thinking mind (where the incessant monkey-mind chatter is in full expression) as the surface of a very turbulent ocean. Witness the conversation in which the monkey-mind is engaged; don't judge it, don't converse with it -- just observe it. By simply acknowledging it from a non-participation perspective you deplete much of its energy.
  • See yourself holding a beautiful rock, knowing the rock symbolizes your intention to enter the silence. Just breathe and be with that intention for a moment.
  • As you take a deep cleansing breath and drop the rock into the water, notice it slowly sinking down, down, down... and out of sight. Then, continue breathing consciously and slowly, and notice the sense of calm that arises from the depths of the intentional pause you have taken.

The practice is to remember that with the calm comes stillness, and with stillness comes the silence within. It is in the stillness of this silence that we fully merge with the sacred "presence of the infinite" -- it's also where we find the elusive peace we so often miss in the busyness of our daily lives.

I keep a fist-size rock on my desk right next to my computer as a reminder that I can enter the power of silence anytime I so choose. Take time today to, as Mark Twain puts it, experience "The Pause; that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence..." You just need to remember to "drop the rock" with a willingness to listen to what the silence doesn't have to say.

For more by Dennis Merritt Jones, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.