Experiences of Silence: An exploration of peoples' experiences of intentional silence
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Guided by literature that suggests that mindfulness practices can be used to cultivate cognitive flexibility, creative thinking, compassion and a sense of interconnectedness, this study explored peoples experiences of opportunities for silence in a university student leadership program focused on sustainability. Guided by the research question: What are participants' reflections of their experiences of intentional silence within the Sustainability Leadership Certificate program?, this research explored experiences of intentional silence as an example of mindfulness practice. This study drew on Grounded Theory and Creative Analytic Practice (CAP) in its analysis and presentation of the findings. The Sustainability Leadership Certificate (SLC) program at Dalhousie University's College of Sustainability incorporates intentional silence into its programming with the goal of creating skilled, motivated leaders committed to actions of sustainability. Participants of the SLC were asked to reflect on their experiences of two, thirty-second moments of silence within the SLC's programming. Overall, participants felt appreciative of the opportunities to be silent and expressed an increased ability to absorb what they were learning, to engage with the material, and to take the silences as breaks from a mentally and socially demanding learning experience. Participants reflected on their experiences within three layers of context: their personal context; their immediate surroundings; and abstract concepts of the value of silence, mindfulness, reflection and more. These layers of context are explored as being nested within one another. A parallel is discussed, of people's experiences of sustainability challenges and experiences of silence. It is possible that mindfulness practices such as intentional silence can be used as the bridge between theory and action, enabling and inspiring people to develop a personal practice of mindfully enacted sustainability.