Noise and silence: as up and down, day and night or yes and no, noise and silence create a yin and yang; without one, the other could not exist.
In our modern world of smart phones and social media, we have all but made silence a relic.
Unfortunately, the balance between the two has been tipped. We see this in the form of a disconnect between ourselves and the greater world around us. In our quest to bring ourselves closer to one another, we have forgotten how to be close to ourselves. Silence is what can bring that connection back.
In society today, silence and noise can take many forms. From solitude versus engagement, reflection versus a constant need for movement, or even fulfillment of basic human needs versus the desire to fill our homes with superfluous material things, the propensity towards “noise” is deafening.
Children today have never been without the Internet. They have never lived a life without cell phones; and many who will come of age soon have never known a day without Facebook.
Our need for constant stimulation has caused us to forget how to be still and enjoy the peaceful sound of nothing at all—to be alone and at ease with our own thoughts, without the din of constant activity in the periphery.
Over the past few years, we have seen the beginnings of a movement in society to reclaim the silence.
From the explosion of the yoga community in the West, to the very recent upwelling of support for the “age of mindfulness”, many people are turning away from the all too familiar lifestyle of constant stimulation and are taking part in a more peaceful coming back to center. The next several years will hopefully show an increase in the number of people who embrace this concept of silence. With practice, we can become a quieter, more peaceful and more whole society.
In my own life, I have experienced both silence and noise in several different ways. Before I began mindfulness-based courses, I was a full-on disaster of constant thoughts (thanks to what I now know is adult ADHD), coupled with an addiction to television and the shows I HAD to keep up with, and my need to attend to everyone else’s problems without ever taking time out for myself.
In my first college class that dealt with cultivating the Spirit, I learned that silence is not the enemy; rather, it is the teacher that has shown me who I really am, apart from what society tells me I should be.
I have since embraced a daily meditation practice as well as a regular yoga practice, both of which have allowed me the time, silence, and presence of mind to look deep within myself and understand the real me.
Just as prevalent in the modern world is our sense of being overwhelmed. From soccer practice to ballet, the PTA, volunteer work or church groups, we as a society have become so afraid of stillness that we cannot stand the thought of a moment with nothing to do.
As a result, instead of taking our time to do things well, we find ourselves in a rush to get things done. We do not give each task the proper time and effort it deserves because we are so concerned about moving on to the next thing.
I experienced this in my own life years ago as a member of the military, who went to school and held a part time job all at the same time. At the time, I had no idea how not to be on the move. Working on base filled my days, while my nights were spent studying, and my weekends were spent bartending at the bar around the corner from my apartment.
I made so much money, but I had no time to spend it. I was busy, but I was unhappy, and soon enough, I became overwhelmed.
Since then, I have learned to take things slower and not to over-extend myself. I have been in therapy now for years, and she has helped me to understand that if I try to be everything to everyone, I will end up being nothing to anyone, most of all, to myself.
Silence and peace are not aspects of life in American society that come easily. Counter to what one might expect, it takes work to do nothing!
But we can decide to learn from stillness, strengthen our capacity to listen and make time for the work of listening.
With some patience and a willingness to push ourselves beyond our normal routine, we can achieve the silence we all crave.
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Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Patty at Flickr