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Some thoughts on silence.

One element of tea drinking that has appealed to us both from the very beginning is the opportunity it gives you to be silent.  It always feels like a gift.  And luckily living with and surrounded by tea it has become something we have become really comfortable with.

There have been many wonderful moments as our Tea Houses have become more established - one is how many lone tea drinkers we attract - people comfortable to sit with their tea and simply enjoy. 

For those of you who have visited our Tea Houses you will know they are minimal in design and in less busy moments, serenely quiet. At Comins we have always said that if you happen upon us in these moments you are lucky, you find us in our purest form and have the space and time to yourselves.  But not everyone sees silence this way, chatting with the team at Comins this week we uncovered a whole range of attitudes and feelings about silence in just their lives and family circles.  Of course that is fine - wouldn't the world be awful if we all enjoyed the same things.  It does however raise a debate - why are we often so uncomfortable with silence, and how could embracing it more fully enhance our lives?  

Keen to learn more we asked Camille who leads the weekly deep relaxation and mediation classes at our Dorset Tea House to share her thoughts on silence & the role that tea could play in helping us to embrace & benefit from it.  Camille spent her early years of meditation practice steeped in Zen tradition - in her own words 'all black robes and sitting for hours in complete stillness' so she knows a thing or two about silence and stillness.  Whether you feel it is for you or not this will hopefully make an interesting read.  

"Essentially we're uncomfortable with silence because it causes us to be totally present with ourselves- no distractions. And when we're present with ourselves we see what's really going on internally, and we might not always like what we see. So we use noise to keep us distracted. 

In the silence we feel awkward, self- conscious or insecure, because we're so used to defining ourselves by external input- we've become used to validating ourselves through other people's responses and feedback to us, by being approved of (post a photo, get some 'likes'!). Silence also confronts us with the ultimate truth- that we are essentially alone. We become fidgety or bored, but those are actually just mechanisms that distract us from being alone with ourselves.

Trouble is- there is also so much to be learnt and seen in the silence. We see where our mind goes, things come up that we may not be aware of. We also have  space to sit with ourselves and enjoy the peace. The mind can rest, we can relax. We are able to connect more with our experiences- so in the silence, without distraction, we are able to actually taste the tea we're drinking. We can be fully present- and that's how silence can become very pleasurable, and also restorative. It's also great to have the opportunity to be with others, but to be silent. We might notice how much connection and communication goes on without even having to speak.

And of course, silence provides the opportunity for wisdom and creativity to rise up. We can literally 'hear' the inner voice, that is so often drowned out by noise.  The key is getting comfortable with silence. It's so rare these days, that most people find it really difficult. So you have to ease in. Take just a few minutes to sit in silence or meditate. Visit place like Comins tea house, where silence is accepted and encouraged, and see how it makes you feel. Notice how you continually try to distract yourself or break the silence.

Be curious, stretch yourself. When you start to feel uncomfortable, give yourself a little more time to settle into the silence. Use your senses or your breathing to keep you present, until you feel relaxed again. The more you practice, the easier it will become.  

Learning to be ok with silence makes us happier and more resilient. We learn how to be ok with whatever is going on for us, without trying to distract ourselves or change it. It teaches us how to weather the storms, to be strong even in our discomfort. And we learn to be happy and comfortable with our own company"

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