- The state of being silent (as when no one is speaking)
- The absence of sound
The world is a noisy place, isn’t it? Our lives are filled with noise at work, home, and at play, that’s why we need to go off somewhere peaceful for a holiday whenever we can. Have you noticed what kind of noise it is though? It’s not a natural sound, it’s mechanical and artificial. Cars revving their engines, and sounding their horns, noisy trucks hurtling by, planes coming into land and taking off again, music in the car, music in the shops, music in the pub, even in your head.
We’re surrounded by talking, laughing and shouting, but the one problem with the design of the human being – the one thing we don’t have control of – is the ability to shut off sound coming into our ears and our brain. We have an “always on” connection to the world. It’s not like being able to close your eyes, to disappear off into a dream world for ten seconds, you’re always listening, always ready to take in new input.
Have you ever been in nature and noticed the noise? Sometimes it can be deafening! But it’s a different kind of sound; a natural sound that comes from the animals, the birds, and the wind shaking the trees. It’s a place you can sit and listen, without feeling stressed, as if all the frequencies of the notes you hear, are perfectly in tune with your body and mind.
Have you ever been at the ocean on a wild winter’s day, and watched the waves come crashing in against the rocks, the wind whipping up against your face? The sounds are incredible, but they do not make us stressed; instead when we leave, we feel invigorated by our experience.
Now transport that scenario to the city you live in. Imagine recreating that volume with city noise. It would be unbearable, don’t you think?
Have you ever watched a sailing ship glide by? It moves quickly, yet seemingly effortlessly and silently through the waves, the wind billowing in its sails. Now compare that to a speed boat or a jet ski passing, and imagine the noise of the motor and the sound of the hull crashing against the sea.
It’s interesting to notice that although nature is powerful, the noise does not disturb us in the same way as man-made power does. It’s as if we are able to process natural sounds calmly, but mechanical sound grates on our nerve endings.
So, although we may hate noisy cities, and are always complaining about cars and planes, we deliberately fill our heads with noise every day. We get up in the morning, listen to the news, turn on the radio in the car or listen to a music player on public transport. We have noise in the office or in the factory or anywhere we work. We talk on the phone all day, we talk to other people all day, we finish work and get back on public transport or into the car, and turn on music or news. We get home, we talk to our partners or friends on the phone, we turn on the tv for the latest news or soap; we may go out for a meal, or to a pub where there is loud talking or music, we come home and go to bed… Our brain utterly exhausted from the days input.
Now compare that day to the sound of the sailing ship gliding by, or listen to the sounds of a waterfall, or the ocean, or the birds in the trees. It is easy to see how we can become so stressed in such an environment, don’t you think?
Most of us live in such highly urbanised environments, full of unnatural sounds that are not in tune with the natural world. That is why meditation and relaxation cd’s have the sound of wind, waves, whales, and streams flowing on them, it’s what puts us back into our natural state of relaxation.
It may have taken us millions of years to evolve as humans, but we have only been exposed to these unnatural sounds for 150 years, tv’s for 50 years, and personal music players for the last 25 years. We have not had time to adjust to these new sounds.
In ancient times, people had no tv or music players to keep them company, but they did hear the sound of the wind, rain, birds and animals, even at home, whereas now modern houses are so insulated from the outside world that there are no natural sounds allowed to get in. Double glazed windows have made sure you can’t hear the wind and the rain, and wall insulation has meant you feel no draught. You are cocooned in a house, alienated from your natural state, now able to hear your own thoughts. For most people that’s a scary proposition.
Have you ever wondered why you get up and put the tv or radio on straight away, or fill your head with music whilst walking to work, or even whilst out for a walk in nature? We normally just put this down to living a modern lifestyle, but it’s much more than that. Let’s look into this more deeply shall we?
Have you ever not turned on the tv, or put music, or the radio on? How often have you sat in your home and done nothing,, with no external stimulation to keep you company? Once, twice, never? Have you ever had any reason to?
We constantly fill our ears with input, keeping our brains busy during the day. We never allow ourselves to be with our own thoughts. We are never quiet enough to hear what’s going on in our own brains. We never give our mind a moment to rest. We have become so accustomed to hearing artificial noise that now we can’t live without it. But sitting with our own thoughts does require great patience, although requires no effort. All you have to do, is to sit in one place, momentarily.
Close your eyes and let the thoughts of your brain wash over you. Don’t try to interact with them, just watch them as if they were being carried along by a wave. It’s hard at first; your first reaction being to open your eyes and fidget, or go and do something else – but just sit. You don’t have to study meditation or listen to whale music to do this. Just sit. Try it with me now if you wish. You will need to read through it first, as you will want to close your eyes…
- Turn off your tv and music player, and make sure no one will disturb you for about two or three minutes.
- Sit upright in a comfortable position and focus for a moment on a point on the wall.
- Take three deep breaths (one thousand, two thousand) remembering to breathe out slowly (one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand), and gently unclench your hands and drop your shoulders. Close your eyes…
- Now, visualise a perfect wave in your mind, and gently let it envelop your entire body, let it relax every muscle and nerve ending in your body, from the tip of your toes to the top of your head.
- Now pay attention to your thoughts; don’t fight with them, don’t tell yourself not to think.
- Just try to let any thoughts you have come and go on the wave. Breathe normally and do this for about a minute or so…
- When you feel ready, take another deep breath (counting one thousand, two thousand), and breathe out slowly (counting one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand), and start to notice yourself being more aware of your environment, and gently open your eyes.
Congratulations, you have experienced your natural state for that short time. Don’t worry if you don’t get it straight away, just keep practising this simple exercise until you feel comfortable with your own thoughts. The more you do this, the more relaxed you can become, and the more you will find you don’t need the tv on all the time, or the music player blasting in your ears.
We are beings of the natural world, not the artificial world. Silence is not boring! It allows us time to gather our thoughts together, and to relax momentarily in a busy world. Just imagine it as bringing the ocean and wind and the rain and the birds to your mind when you don’t have time to go on a trip into nature. You can do this anywhere, in the office, on a break, on the bus or the train (just don’t try it when you’re in the car or operating machinery). You don’t need a special mat to sit on, just three minutes to close your eyes.
When we are talking about silence, we are not talking about being in a vacuum, because remember nature isn’t silent, it’s just that we are in tune with those sounds. If you have ever been on a camping trip and fallen asleep to the sound of rain on your tent you’ll know what I mean. Try it. You never know, you may enjoy your three minute holiday from the stress and noise that artificial life has created for us. You are part of the natural world after all.
by alan macmillan orr
‘the natural mind – waking up’