From the moment I wake up, throughout my entire day and onward to the evening and bed, I am assaulted by noise. People noise, radio and TV noise, mobile phone notifications, washing machine and tumble dryer noise, food mixer noise, car, bus, plane and moped noise, birds, dogs, cats, my own voice and the non-stop inner dialogue of my mind that quite frankly, very rarely shuts up.
It's a racket. Let's face it.
Some noises are more soothing than others. The sea with its ebb and flow; the swish/crush noise of the sandy pebbles being sucked backwards into the foam. Pebbles plopping in the pond. The odd bleat of the sheep in an isolated field. Ralph Vaughn Williams.
What I find is that noise and sound, although intrinsic to everyday living, can be a vehicle of emotional avoidance and denial. It shuts up the quiet inner voice of truth and blots out the inner reality of your soul. Sometimes you need to shut things out, shut things up and not register what you are feeling or thinking. Noise in this instance is the handmaiden of busyness.
But for me I need to have a balance of loudness and quietness. Having insight, monitoring mood and thought and generally having a handle on stress are critical to my recovery process. The only way I can do that effectively is by shutting the hell up! It doesn't even need to be for a long and arduous time either. I am not a monk. And quietness is not my natural way of being. I'm a talker, to myself and others, and I play my music incredibly loud. I encourage my kids to talk and sing and play instruments. My husband plays guitar well and sings like a gurgling drain. We celebrate his lack of self obsession and joy of the moment! The house is rarely silent.
However, making time to be quiet is essential for me, and takes commitment. It also takes a bit of planning, especially if you have a busy family life and a job etc. It also means being prepared to sit with feeling uncomfortable at times too. Mindfulness is a great way of slowing down and being still. If you do it with a speaking guide, it isn't silent but it's definitely a way of massively reducing the inner and outer noise. It is brilliant for refreshing, uplifting and easing the spirit and mind.
Total silence is quite tricky. There is always the possibility of interruption but you can achieve mostly silent quite easily by turning everything off, including your mobile phone (Don't have a total meltdown), and just sitting still for 5 minutes. Breathe, absorb the environment, the smells, the temperature, the feel of your body in the seat. Some noises may drift in but let them pass. How do you feel? Are their any emotions floating about? Is there a primary thought popping to the front of your mind? How does your body feel? And for me in this moment I also scan whether or not God is saying anything or guiding me to anything. Please feel free to ignore the God bit! If you want to, you can build up your length of time by increments of 5 minutes. You may find yourself at it for hours as it feels fantastic! I go off every now and then to Launde Abbey or Mount St. Bernard's to get away from it all and shut up. It's weird as when I go, the closer I get to the building the more self aware I become. It's like the lack of noise is deafening, and all I can feel is my inner being in its absolute truth. This is both wonderful and terrifying. It's much easier to pretend I am alright by shouting "I'm fine" at the top of my voice whilst bashing saucepans.
Many a spiritual community have based their daily practice on being silent, working and praying. Silence is a rare commodity in our 24/7 world. Sometimes, tapping in to something ancient and simple can really nourish you. It might not be trendy or fashionable, but being quiet is actually a beautiful thing to do for yourself in a world that demands so much.