“As someone who speaks nearly constantly, the idea of enforced silence seemed punitive,” said Melissa Klurman, a journalist in Montclair, N.J., who also tried out silent breakfast on a retreat to Kripalu last year.
“One of the funny things about starting a mindfulness practice is that when you quiet the external noise, you start to hear more of the internal noise. If you’re not used to this, it can be incredibly unpleasant,” said Ravi Kudesia, a mindfulness researcher and assistant professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “The key idea here is that it’s better to notice the whispers before they become screams.”
I couldn’t concentrate, so I let my mind run wild through its litany of worries and reminders. Then, like a toddler wearing herself out after a tantrum, my thoughts quieted down. After several days of silent breakfast, I started to hear myself. My concerns and thoughts, happy with their time at the soapbox, stepped back and stopped plaguing me first thing in the morning. I could focus on what was in front of me, without guilt, without obligation, without stress. It was an unusual feeling of freedom.
For Deborah Vaphides, 62, an acupuncturist from Montclair, N.J., starting her mornings with a silent routine several days a week helps her feel more grounded throughout the day. She sits by her window and watches the sunlight stream in early in the mornings, while practicing deep breathing exercises.
“I used to listen to the news every morning for decades. No more. I know the news will find me these days no matter where I go,” said Ms. Vaphides. “The image of the light changing during my quiet mornings stays with me all day, and I come back to that peacefulness any time I need it.”
This peace, it turns out, has a lot to do with our physical response. “When we’re in silence, our brains and bodies react similarly to when we meditate,” said Dr. Lauraine Hollyer, a clinical psychologist, in a phone interview. “Cortisol, which is associated with stress, decreases in the bloodstream. Blood pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate also decrease. We can concentrate and recall more easily.”