Dr. Montessori on the Value of Silence
“True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.” (William Penn)
Dr. Montessori recognized the power of silence after bringing a sleeping infant into the classroom one day. Everyone in the class was impressed by the baby’s silence, prompting Dr. Montessori to challenge the children to be equally quiet. She observed how spiritually rewarded the children felt while experiencing silence.
This meaningful experience, when casa children are invited to still the body and the mind, became known as the Silence Game. Elementary students welcome variations of practicing silence through breathing exercises, meditation and/or yoga and silent reading circles. Sometimes moments of silence arise spontaneously in the classroom, while everyone is totally immersed in work.
Dr. Montessori felt this meditative quiet was liberating and brought children to new levels of awareness. “Soon they were aware of drops of water falling outside in the courtyard, and of the song of a bird in a distant tree,” wrote Dr. Montessori. “The children each silenced their own movements and produced a collective quiet that was for them a profound experience.”
“Through these exercises,” she observed, “children learn that silence is the cessation of every movement. To achieve silence requires effort, the attention of the will, and maximum control of self. As a result, the children explore a deeper knowledge of their own capacities…Silence is refreshing, giving our overloaded senses a break. When it is silent it is easier to notice how smooth the geometric solid is in our hands. It is easier to hear the gentle sound of a zipper, or notice the scent of fresh cut flowers. Silence brings us back into ourselves, yet is also a profound connection to everyone else in the room at the same time.”
“And now there is merely silence, silence, silence, saying all we did not know.” (William R. Benet)
(Excerpts from The Secret of Childhood, The Discovery of the Child, Montessoriworld.org and poets Benet, Emerson & Penn.)