Silence and Sound
Have you ever thought about the relationship between silence and sound, its opposite? Since starting to meditate, I have come to prefer and welcome silence more and more into my life.
Is it a natural side effect?
I’m not sure, but after some study on this, my instincts to create more silence may actually more about life and death.
Maybe I shouldn’t go that far, but it can be a big contributor to the state of human health.
I was compelled to write about this for a couple reasons: meditation, and reading about how silence can be utterly profound.
Silence and sound are two things I think about with regard to meditation. Sound isn’t a barrier to meditation, but I sure do like it much better when I can’t hear any sounds. I often use earplugs as a result.
We’re Surrounded By Noise
Modern life dictates that on any given day, we’re all subject to the sounds of cars, motorcycles, televisions, humming computers, phones ringing, planes, trains, music on our devices, coffee makers, alarms, tea kettles, construction sounds, factory sounds, air conditioning, heating, and more.
I’m pretty sure no one would classify these as “relaxing.”
We Don’t Like the Silence
Even as I’ve embraced meditation and the silence that comes with it, I still can have a hard time “keeping silence.” When I do the dishes, I often like to talk to a family member or a friend on the phone. When I’m driving, I often have music on the radio (even if it is usually wordless, calming music) or a podcast playing.
Most people I know haven’t taken the steps to start their days with meditation, or with other calming activities. But the “silence” sets the tone for the whole day. I know this from experience.
When it comes to working in silence, going about the day without the TV emitting its cacaphony in the background, or listening to the radio, or cleaning the house, most of us get uncomfortable.
We’re not used to it. We don’t like the silence when conversations naturally lull, either.
All That Noise Affects Our Health
A study from Harvard suggests that people who live near an airport, for example, are regularly exposed to sounds of 55 decibels or higher.
In a study of elderly patients who lived near airports, for each increase in 10 decibels of sound that they were regularly exposed to, their risk for cardiovascular disease increased by 3.5%.
This is an everyday noise. Something we probably don’t even think about!
Sounds Can Jar, Sounds Can Heal
That makes sense, though. Think about how you might feel after listening to harsh music, such as heavy metal or hard rock. It could have the most benign message, but it’s probably not the go-to when you need soothing music to de-stress. (Well, relatively speaking, anyways.)
Conversely, if you listen to the sounds of nature, water trickling in a stream, birds singing in the mornings, the wind humming in the trees, you probably felt calmer just reading about those beautiful sounds. We’re meant to feel calm at hearing those sounds.
It has such power. If you’ve ever heard of the rice experiment, Dr. Emoto found that speaking negatively to cooked rice over 30 days yielded a rotting, molding mess. Conversely, speaking positively in a soothing voice yielded rice that didn’t rot and looked like you could almost eat it.
(There are quite a few other lessons to be gained from this experiment, as well. The “ignored” rice experienced silence, but it was a “negative silence” in that neglect is never good when it comes to the welfare of animals and plants.)
Getting Back to Silence
As I’ve been writing this blog post, I started out listening to a bit of soothing mantra music. When the soundtrack ended, I intentionally spent the rest of the time writing in silence.
I’m aware of crickets awakening in the evening golden hour and with the setting sun. I’m aware of our de-humidifier doing its job in our basement. The tapping of my fingers on the keyboard is the third sound I hear.
Silence was the norm on this planet for billions of years. It’s only in the past couple hundred years that noise pollution has existed all around. Out beyond the atmosphere, in space, in the universe, there is no sound. It is utter silence.
What if you worked in silence more often?
What would happen if you went about your day inviting as much silence into your awareness as possible?
On your morning commute, try keeping the radio off. Notice how you feel. It’ll probably be quite uncomfortable at first. Let yourself settle into it.
When you sweep your home, vacuum, do the dishes, fold the laundry, cook, or clean the bathroom, try turning off the music or the television.
Why Bother With Silence?
For so many reasons.
It is in silence that you begin to hear the little voice that lives inside. It’s the “real you.” Any noise will prevent you from hearing that soft, intuitive wisdom.
It returns you to a more human, more natural, more centered state. Because humans evolved in a silent world – except for the sound of their voices or tools, and the sounds of nature – silence can return all people to a time when they were more in tune with their inner selves, each other, and the planet.
You hear insights and messages from within. In the folding of a towel, you might just finally hear an answer emerge to the question that’s been on your mind.
For me personally, I’ve had so many insights burn themselves into my awareness and consciousness by honoring that silence.
Your health just might improve, too. That Harvard study above suggested that noise pollution could be one of those “hidden factors” that directly contributes to the worldwide epidemic of heart disease. Not only that, the silence is at once more calming and inviting than the mechanical sounds of modern life.Inviting silence into your life is like inviting a healing balm to soothe the heart, mind, and spirit. Click To Tweet
Inviting Silence Into Your Life
Western society doesn’t exactly embrace silence. But if you want to bring a sense of calmness to your own life, this is one great thing you can do for yourself.
Personally, I invite silence into my life through several avenues.
The first is through meditation. Most mornings I use earplugs to block out the sounds of an awakening city. I hear the sound of my breath and sometimes the pulse of my heartbeat.
These are what I return to when my thoughts start swirling in my mind. (Yes, thoughts are a big part of meditation.)
Meditation invites you to settle in, to watch your thoughts, and try not to engage with them. Even for short amounts of time, the benefits are so numerous.
Let yourself “just be.” Think about this: you’re sitting on your bed just staring out the window watching the world outside. You’re not doing anything. You’re just existing – silently – in that moment. Perhaps you feel a little bored. Your body, however, is getting a chance to just be. Not do.
When is the last time you did something like that?
Get Rid of the Alarm Clock
Get rid of alarm clocks, tech noises and the like from bedrooms. By now, you’ve heard how the blue light from LCD screens can disrupt sleep. Obviously their sounds can, too. Waking up to an alarm clock is one of the most stressful ways to wake up.
Most adults need about 8 hours of sleep. Try going to bed at a time when you know you’ll be undisturbed for about 8 hours and don’t set the alarm. Let yourself naturally wake up.
You’d be surprised at how the body knows how much rest it needs and will wake up naturally, according to the amount of sleep you need. This might not happen immediately, but in time, the body will get better and better at it.
The Body Will Adjust To Not Having an Alarm
If you have to get up at 5:30, head to bed by 9:30. Through the weeks and months, your body will respond naturally to waking and sleeping rhythms. If you’re really scared to do this, try it out when you don’t have to be somewhere and it doesn’t matter if you sleep longer than you mean to.
Something else you can do is set an alarm for after you think you will be awake – to allow yourself to wake up naturally. You can start your day without being jolted awake to a harsh sound.
I started doing this about a year ago. I couldn’t stand waking up to an alarm anymore – even a “calm-sounding” one. I started going to bed about 8 hours before I knew I needed to wake up.
In the early days, i’d sometimes sleep more than I meant to. A year later, I know that if I go to bed at 10 pm, I can count on waking up around 6 am. If I go to bed at midnight, I will wake up around 7:30 or 8 am.