Why silence is golden for myself... and for Boris

Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson

Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson - Credit: PA

James Marston says quiet time and contemplation has become an important part of his life - and is a good way of avoiding the ongoing political shenanigans

Silence - I wonder if it's something we don't have enough of.

Next week, as regular readers will know, I am to get made deacon at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral - an event which heralds not only the end of two years at college in Cambridge, but the beginning of my ministry in the Church of England.

Over the last two years I have sort of rediscovered the advantages of being quiet.

It is, of course, in the context of Christian prayer, but it is also something I think those with or without faith can benefit from.

Many years ago, when I was starting out in journalism, my first news editor told me that being a journalist isn't about writing, or talking, or saying stuff, it is about being quiet, observing and listening. To listen one has to be quiet and not thinking, while someone else is talking, about what you are going to say next.

Indeed it is good journalistic practice, when interviewing someone, to keep quiet, listen and sit through the awkward silence - as it is often filled by the person being interviewed by something they might not otherwise have said, thereby getting you the story behind the story, and often closer to the truth than you otherwise may have got.

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I suspect much of my Christian ministry will involve listening to people too - at least I hope it does, though I admit I'm not always as good at this as I ought to be, often preferring the sound of my own voice a little too much.

However, this week I've been struck by the noise in which we constantly live. Highlighted by the mock outrage shown by some in my trade at Boris Johnson's decision to decline to appear on a televised debate.

I suspect the reason behind this is simple; he's far enough ahead in the parliamentary party not to need to, speaking in public doesn't come without risk, and MPs will vote for whoever is most likely to ensure they keep their seats come the next general election, and Boris is likely to be that person and he knows it.

Nonetheless, I found this silence rather refreshing. At one level because feeding the media by way of these staged events has little to do with democracy and much to do with ratings and the power the media think they have, and because it makes such a change for someone to say: "No thanks, I'll keep my powder dry."

The silence of Boris might be political but silence, for all of us, can have huge benefits. These are some I noticed over the last few years:

1. You become calmer and more confident about your intuition

2. You understand yourself and others better

3. You improve awareness of the effects of what you say and what others say

4, Having silent time to yourself makes you less stressed and more patient.

I'm not saying I'm a paragon of virtue - which is exactly why silence is useful to me - and it is deeply odd to sit alone thinking without any distraction, at least until you get used to it.

But once you try it, you suddenly realise how noisy the world has become and how much of that noise really isn't worth listening to.