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Listening Below the Noise: A Meditation on the Practice of Silence

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  500 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Listening Below the Noise offers readers the possibility of finding grace and peace in the natural world and in ourselves. Elegant and honest… one of those rare books that finds its way into our hearts, and stays there.” — Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle

A meditation on silence, the art of being present, and simple spirituality from critically acclaimed novelist An
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 10th 2009 by Harper (first published January 29th 2009)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Victoria Weinstein
It may be because I read so many books about spirituality, but I found this somewhat dull and self-absorbed. I'm tired of books by privileged white women fussing so excessively about their inner lives that they seem to have no interest in the real world. Do we really need another memoir by a writer on Cape Cod who thinks that keeping her mouth shut four days a month is radical and revelatory? Monks and nuns have been doing it all their lives for centuries -- I recommend that you read their works ...more
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Listening Below The Noise

By Anne D. LeClaire

Once in a while, at a dollar book sale, I’ll find a treasure. This book is that and a heck of a lot more. Think of it as a quiet walk in the woods or a stroll along the lakeshore with the only company being you and the path ahead. Sure, you’ll encounter a root or stone along the way, but you may also find something you hadn’t considered. You.

“Somehow we have become estranged from quiet and have developed not only a low tolerance for it, but an almost
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Most books on silence deal with the beneficial effects of spending prolonged time in quiet places, such as deserts, mountains, polar areas or retreats and dwellings in remote countryside. This is a memoir by someone who over many years has developed a returning practice of refraining from speech. For this author, nonspeech is an exercise in self-discovery and cultivating an aware, grateful attitude to our environment and to life. Inevitably it also is (or grows into) a spiritual practice. It see ...more
Linda Tuplin
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reinforced what I have been feeling lately -- too much external noise and not enough silence to hear the world or myself think. I guess that's why I so cherish early mornings on my swing in the backyard, listening to the birds and hearing the world wake up. ...more
Aug 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
When I read non-fiction, I can tell whether I am doing some deep learning by whether or not I have to read with a pen/pencil in hand to underline and take notes. I found the first half of this book to be a lovely, gentle read, but not especially deep or challenging. No underlining or note taking there. However, the second half really surprised me. My pencil was busy marking some of LeClaire's discoveries and revelations, and my mind was busy thinking about how I can integrate more silence into m ...more
I loved this book. Anne LeClaire tells how her years of observing a day of silence on alternating Mondays has transformed and enriched her life. She details the heightened awareness to her own inner life, as well as the more acute listening to the world around her, that practicing "stillness" has brought. And she doesn't just tell us of the wonderfulness of this; she also describes the times that this observation of silence becomes troubling, causes resentment in both herself and those close to ...more
”In silence I had found a place where I could hear the voice inside.
I could sit in the sum and sip the sweetness of its cup.
I slowed down, reflected and rested. And I wanted more.”
p. 91

I could have picked almost any page in this book to quote from. LeClaire is willing to share her own thoughts and actions and she has a way with words. I found lots to think about. LeClaire made me feel like this book was a conversation between the two of us.

Deciding to not speak for a whole day, LeClaire put her
Jan 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
I was hoping for something new here. I'm not sure what. But I cannot be impressed by the way someone with such a privileged life is able to incorporate contemplation into her life. She already works at home, in a separate studio, no less. She can walk to the beach. Or even move into the family's rental cottage to extend her silence into a week's length. I would love to find the writings of someone who managed a meditation practice in a life less custom-designed for it.

Plus, can I beg the writers
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a re-read for me, and I loved it as much this time as the first! I appreciate her premise that she had mistaken “a busy life for a rich one,” that instead of human beings, we “have become human doings.”
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
really liked this book - so much so that I will be buying a copy so I can highlight and re-read over time ---and will definitely be doing my own days of silence.
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The first half of the book reconfirmed a lot of what I've learned at AA. The second half gave me a new perspective on my own personal need for silence. ...more
Katie Ringley
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book that could add value to literally every persons life, is short, concise and yet I bet not a lot of people would pick it up or give it the respect it deserves. Huge fan.
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful and wise book on the value of silence and stillness in our lives. The importance of carving out time for quiet and solitude.
Eileen Sullivan
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book Tuesday at the American Association for University Women book and author tea. Very pleased to share that Anne LeClaire was one of four local authors who spoke at the event. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing her speak and although she didn't talk about the initiative with this book (silence) I really liked her stories and messages. I picked up the book to read at the beach as my non fiction book this week (I alternate between fiction and non fiction). Pleased to share that this book ...more
May 26, 2009 rated it liked it
This should probably get about a 2.5. It's not as if Anne LeClaire tells us anything we don't already know, namely that our senses in the modern world are constantly--and it's certainly constantly where I live--assaulted by noise. LeClaire's response to this was to begin practicing silence--literally. For at least the past ten years, she has devoted the first and third Monday of every month to silence. She doesn't speak to anyone (including members of her family), she doesn't answer the phone, a ...more
Kasey Jueds
May 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book so much more than I actually did. It's a wonderful topic and one that's close to me personally, so I was happy to find it at the library--I had high hopes. But Listening Below the Noise is disappointing. For one thing, even though Anne LeClaire gives lip service to the idea that practicing silence, like any spiritual practice, is a circular path, the structure of the book is relentlessly linear. Each chapter has a well-defined subject, begins with a problem or question ...more
May 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended by someone while I was on retreat. I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in it. The author gives her account of feeling the need for silence in her life and designates every first and third Monday as days of silence. What I found a little disturbing is that she does not fill the silence with God. It is almost like silence for silence sake. She quotes many good sources- the saints, Thomas Merton. She also quotes a lot of Sufi and Hindu teachers as well which sent up ...more
Apr 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Edited Review: Original review still included at the end.

Okay... So I definitely reviewed this book incorrectly.
I read the book with the intentions I would have if I were reading "Quiet..." by Susan Cain. This book and that book are not the same kinds of books, so I will re-rate this and re-review looking at it from another angle. (The angle I should have had!)

This is a very good memoir. LeClaire's "days of quiet" seriously turned her life around, and she illustrates that in great detail. She al
Apr 01, 2011 rated it liked it
I came across this while browsing aimlessly in the newly opened reading room on the top floor of the local library. The way it was shelved, its cover was visible, and that's what drew me, in addition to the fact that I had stalled in A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland, and this book was shorter, thinner, more compact, possibly more easily read.

LeClaire got a mysterious prompting to be silent, so she tried it for a whole day. Then for two Mondays a month. Then she kept that up for 17 years.

Oct 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Having already so many books on this topic, but a big proponent of silence, I expected to quickly (and quietly?) breeze through this one and write it off as just another flaky new age treatise. But I was pleasantly suprised when it turned out to be more than that. The author is not some self-appointed guru but instead a writer who inhabits an ordinary world wrought with activity and noise who chose to explore her inner life by being silent every other Monday. She herself is suprised by all that ...more
Suzie Q
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I NEVER say this, but this is a gift book we all should give to ourselves and OWN sort of book. It explores taking a day or two a month for complete silence to just slow down, focus on the task at hand, while being one with the world, not overburdened with multitasking, technology and endless pointless noise all while doing everything at a whirlwind pace.

This paired with a Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg is a bookie's dream come true.

I have really learned a lot in getting older in just
Erika Nerdypants
Overall I really liked this book, but I do have a few quibbles. It may seem minor, but it seriously bothered me that my favorite line from Mary Oliver's poem "Wild Geese" was misquoted. Having said that, I appreciated the author drawing on many other inspirational sources, which in my opinion made the content richer. And while this wasn't really meant as an in depth exploration on the role of silence in life, I did find it a little too pat at times. As a memoir, it was beautifully written in des ...more
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Anne D. LeClaire's book on silence truly spoke to me. I had been thinking about the amount of noise in my life for some time--TVs, computers, people, cars, radios, iPods, etc. and when I saw this book at the library I was drawn to it. The book talks about LeClaire's almost 20 year practice of silence and how the practice has transformed her life and the lives of those around her.

There are so many nuggets of brilliance that I wanted to underline, highlight and make notes about that I am planning
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
This is a thought provoking book. The author has practiced silence 2 days a month for over 15 years and wrote about the experience. She references Ann Lindbergh's, Gifts from the Sea, and I felt the same reading both books. Silence is used for all different reasons and provokes much thought when used in my life. Reading it created some angst when I realized how silence has shaped my life for both positive and negative ways. Although I am not going to adopt her exact practice, I have turned off t ...more
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
For the past 17 years the author, a novelist and former reporter, spends 2 Mondays a month being silent. During her silent days she concentrates on being aware of things around her and aware of her own thoughts and feelings. She has expanded beyond the two days a month to occasional weeks of solitude and she teaches the concepts at seminars now.

She has some interesting points, and spends a fair amount of time figuring out why silence is so unusual in our culture today...and why so many people a
Nov 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was a book club book and so often I buy them and then don't finish them, so this time I got it from the library. Now I wish I had purchased this book. There were so many things i wanted to underline. I don't know if it is the timing of this book at a time when I am alone during the day more but something in it really spoke to me. I am realizing the need for more silence in my life. LeClaire talks about our hectic, overscheduled lives and noise in our s ...more
Cynthia Neale
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was visiting Chatham and found this book at a quaint new and used bookstore. The timing was perfect because I was seeking some quiet. The author writes of her journey to set aside one day a week to be completely silent. In this deliberate endeavor, she finds solace, healing, and also struggles with truths about her life that swim to the surface of her conscience. There are poignant quotes about silence, spirituality, and nature throughout the book, as well. At times, I heard the certain refrai ...more
Rita Ciresi
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book while on a retreat, and I could identify with the author's desire to block out the noise of everyday living and find herself in the practice of silence. Le Claire describes her personal journey to embrace silence and the challenges she faced from her family and friends who did not always understand her desire to remain quiet. After reading this book, I am inspired to go on a silent retreat, and I can't wait to dive into some of the books that Le Claire recommends (there is a ver ...more
Michelle Sevigny
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
After choosing silence every second Monday for 17 years, Anne D. LeClaire shares her thoughts, experiences and frustrations about the practice, and something that will be prepare me for my own experimentation with silence. "My experience​ was intensified because my silence was by commitment, not by accident of circumstance." -- LeClaire.
Beautiful words, vulnerable insights.
Donna Kafel
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I borrowed this book from the library but will be buying it as I will refer to it from time to time. In simple heart-felt language Anne Leclaire shares her experience of what the impact of practicing intentional silence has done to her spirit. Through sharing how soul-feeding her experience has been, Leclaire has moved me to regularly practice intentional silence.
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I grew up on a farm in a small town in Western Massachusetts, the middle of three daughters of a school teacher mother and an electrician father. I was the family "story-teller," not always meant in the good way. In fact, I love that while I was once punished for making up stories, I now get paid for it.

Okay, so I was a small town girl. But my ambitions were as fanciful as they were impractical. M

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