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Healing in Silence

by Vivienne Silver-Leigh(more info)

listed in psychospiritual, originally published in issue 66 - July 2001

Today was one of the Sundays when I sat in silence, with other members of the Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are often called. Fifty people, quite a few of them regulars, attended today, including many well-behaved children and one sleeping baby. The tradition is that no one speaks unless they feel they have something to say that must be said 'when the spirit moves them'. One person rose to speak today, for a brief moment, to 'minister', saying something about love and her own passionately grateful recognition that we are all loved even if we are not aware of this love. For me it was the kind of useful trigger that moved my thoughts to deeper and more contemplative levels, away from the slightly irritating cough of the person sitting in front of me and the creak of the door when a latecomer entered.

Silence continued, and for the next thirty minutes I was free to wonder about human love, divine love, creation and individual spirituality including my own winding path of spiritual discovery. This has led me through doorways marked Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Bahai and yoga. In the 1960s I discovered humanistic psychology, in the 1980s client-centred counselling, and in the 1990s transpersonal psychotherapy and rebirthing.

Meditation, going into the stillness, is a way of centring oneself, and it does not really matter what type of meditation you adopt – it could be counting each breath, or repeating a mantra, a sacred word. It is also known that meditation and breathing practices may be extraordinarily healing. Transcendental meditation has been researched and shown to have powerful effects on whole cities, reducing their crime rates, while clinically standardized meditation is acceptable to those who want to avoid any religious connection. Traditional religions are also associated with meditation these days.

Stress management programmes usually include meditation and relaxation, and there is a greater awareness of the need for stillness in our very busy society. People realize the benefits that they can get from a period of quiet and non-activity and retreats centres are mushrooming to meet their needs. You can buy retreat guides listing addresses all over the United Kingdom and some abroad.

Another powerful way of accessing inner silence and the healing source inside oneself is through rebirthing. This is a breathing process, derived from yoga, where the trained practitioner assists the 'breather', who often feels new and powerful connections to his/her true inner nature. It also can bring about awareness of past traumas or current emotional state, and this awareness is itself healing. Psychotherapy integrated with rebirthing is a very powerful way of making creative changes in life, such as dealing with old sadness, or anger, and becoming more spiritually connected and loving.

I frequently see young, busy IT consultants, somewhat 'stuck' in good careers, with good lifestyles, who seem to welcome the opportunity to come and talk about their lives, what they would prefer to be doing really, then lie down, relax and breathe deeply. This process may bring about a new freedom to make changes and become more creative. Shallow breathing, combined with looking at a computer all day, not seeing any nature, seems to be a passport to fatigue, irritation and wrecked relationships.

Depth psychotherapy is concerned with the spiritual, inner world of the client, the processes of change, and the journey towards wholeness, or individuation, as Jung put it. Part of the transpersonal training I received for three years involved going on silent retreats, and for one week I lived in a tiny hut in a beautiful garden with food brought to me by a guide, and in total silence. I had a few spiritual books, and I was able to paint a little, and listened to some religious music. I shall never forget this experience of being by myself, with a daily visit from a retreat guide, able to think my thoughts and reflect on my emotions, my life. It was extremely refreshing and strengthening, and I hope that it contributed towards deepening my understanding of myself and others.

Relaxation techniques, prayer, healing, meditation, pranayama and breathwork of all kinds have helped many people deal with stressful life events and illnesses. The frankly sceptical may be reassured by doctors who have seen healing that is beyond rational explanation.

Physician Dr Larry Dossey and surgeon Dr Bernard Siegal are among medical writers who describe healings that were inexplicable and who consider them as areas worthy of research.[1],[2] Physicists such as David Bohm postulate the idea of an underlying oneness and unity in the world,[3] while the psychologist Ken Wilber has given us a model of consciousness, a hierarchy of levels of consciousness with spiritual awareness at the top level.[4] Professor Stanislav Grof has also written of these levels, and has developed holotropic breathwork as a way of accessing 'altered states' of consciousness and promoting psychological healing.[5]

Healing has definitely arrived, I realized, when I attended a recent conference, on integrating complementary therapies in cancer treatment, and I was surprised to hear Dr Craig Brown describing his GP practice, in Sussex, where he has been working with spiritual healers for fifteen years, is himself a qualified healer, and heads a research group at the National Federation for Spiritual Healing. His talk was entitled 'Can healers and doctors work together?' and was surely evidence of the new approach to helping patients in every way, rather than only through drugs and medicines.


1. Dossey Larry. Recovering the Soul: a Scientific and Spiritual Search. Bantam Books. 1989.
2. Siegal Bernard. Love, Medicine and Miracles. Harper and Row. New York. 1986.
3. Bohm David. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Routledge and Kegan Paul. London. 1980.
4. Wilber Ken. Spectrum of Consciousness. Quest. Wheaton. IL. 1979.
5. Grof Stanislav. Realms of the Human Unconscious. Souvenir Press. London. 1979.

Further Reading

Carrington Patricia. The Book of Meditation. Element Books. 1998.
Rowan John. The Transpersonal – Psychotherapy and Counselling. Routledge. London and New York. 1993.


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About Vivienne Silver-Leigh

Vivienne Silver-Leigh had a career first as a speech therapist, and then became a lecturer in English and counselling. She trained counsellors for five years, and now has a private practice, working as a psychotherapist, from a humanistic/integrative perspective. Following a strong interest in spirituality, she learned yoga and various forms of breathwork and meditation. She can be contacted on e-mail:

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