I want you to think for a minute about a favourite piece of music.
Let it roll around inside your head. Does it have a driving rhythm? Does it hook you so firmly that the beat stays embossed in your brain for the rest of the day? Does it wash over you like a swell, all warm and tingly and refreshing? Does it energise or console you?
This music that you are giving yourself permission to silently enjoy, is made up of sound and what I like to call potential sound.
It’s not quite silence, because to me, silence is about letting go of intention. The need to fill it with anything other than itself.
Potential sound is like silence but it is full of intention. Stuffed to the edges with it.
Go back to that song you were listening to.
Notice how the singer or the instrument takes a breath. The sound isn’t there any more, but the music doesn’t stop, does it?
The flow of the music is still there. And you listen just as intently during the silence as you do when there is sound.
You see, we cannot separate the notes in a piece of music from the pauses between them. Without the rests the notes are just noise – and the quality of the silence is as important as the tone of the music we are playing.
The pauses contain the desire to sing again, to play another note, to pound another beat.
This is the intention in the silence.
You only have to watch a world-class insanely-talented conductor like Gustavo Dudamel to see that a pause is not a pause. It’s a bridge we cross raucously from one awesome moment to the next.
So as a speaker or as an actor, you can deliver your lines with all the emotion in the world. But if the way you breathe doesn’t power through with meaning and intention then your performance is dead. Disconnected. Disjointed.
Example. Notice, when you speak about something that thrills you, how you take a breath. Short, perhaps. Sharp. High. Snatched.
And then, the long, deep kind of breath that comes before you talk of something that moves you deeply.
You are saying so much more with your breath – with the pauses – than you realize.
When you start to pay attention to the quality of your breath, you start to see its color and its magic…how it literally has a life of its own. (Did you know you can tell how a person is feeling just by listening intently to the way they are breathing? It’s that powerful. It is life.)
So use this. Play with the intentions you stuff your silence with. Notice that your pauses are full of rest and yet packed with meaning.
Allow these spaces between the good work and the busy work and even the work that only feels busy but doesn’t move you forward (and we’re all good at that) to be a part of the whole song.
So today, remember that the time you take to pause is brimming with the intention to create once again. And enjoy this…play with it, experiment, and make peace with it.
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