Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Sound of Silence

My little slice of Sierra heaven

I am looking out on a Sierra thunderstorm…grey skies, deep green pines, and cherry-sized wet splotches on the grey distressed wooden deck. A short while ago the sky was torn in two by blazing flashes of lightening, and moments later, the ground shook and my ears buzzed from the explosive thunder. The sound was especially harsh since my ears had adapted to the quiet surroundings. I can’t remember the last time that I was surrounded by deafening silence. One can actually hear the air. The sudden cacophony isn’t from honking horns or blaring car radios or incessant cell-phone babble, but from the chatter of chipmunks.

I had forgotten what this precious commodity, silence, sounded like.

Apartment living, though (in my case) cheap and convenient, comes with the hidden price-tag of constant din. Poor insulation holds this clamor inward. I, unwillingly, know more about my neighbors than my family members. There is no such thing as private conversations, or private anything else for that matter.

I looked forward to returning to the mountains to escape all obligations and to just write. I had forgotten about the silence. After a few short days I have become addicted to it. I remember this great gift of Maine life several years ago. Blankets of snow for five months a year kept away not only Boston weekenders, but noise as well. Silence fed my soul in ways that other sustenance could not.

Our world is so fast-paced, so busy, so over-crowded, so noisy, that we completely lose sight of not only what is normal but, also, what is essential.

We are finally being reminded of the necessity of enough sleep—to our physical, mental and emotional health—but this warning, in itself, is hypocritical. When we live in a society that expects us to do more and more, that, in fact, rewards us for doing more and more, it becomes near-impossible to get enough sleep. And then everyone suffers the consequences. In medical school I rotated through the team of renowned heart surgeon Michael DeBakey. They were quick to inform us of how little sleep he needed throughout his entire life. During my hospital residency program even though we all tried to cover for one another because we knew how vitally important sleep was, the person who could get by with the least amount of sleep was still the most respected. Additionally, we, as women, felt too guilty having our colleagues cover for us—so most of us wouldn’t allow ourselves to sleep longer even though our colleagues were ready and willing.

Before you conclude that this is just a medical training phenomenon, look at your own life. Most women are running faster and faster, doing more and more. Sleep is a luxury most cannot afford. If we are unable to get enough sleep, then how can we even entertain thoughts of experiencing silence? And yet, we must. There is nothing that pulls us farther out of ourselves than noise and the business of life.

So how are we to experience silence? Many of you are already doing this, perhaps through your meditative practice.

For those of you who need a bit of support, or who do not live in a naturally quiet place (I empathize!), here are a few simple tips that may help you out in your busy noisy lives:

1. The most essential step is the first one, which is to recognize the importance of silence and value it enough to consciously seek it out. This is also the most difficult step, the one on which most of us stumble. You will only recognize its importance when you experience its benefits—so it’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

2. If you do not live in a quiet space then, if possible, make time to transport yourself to one. I have found that nothing works better than the real thing. It might be a walk along the beach or in a quiet neighborhood or park. You may have to go a distance and then leave your transportation behind. You may make the journey there part of your exercise—such as walking or riding a bike.

3. If you can designate a quiet space inside your home, then do so. If you have small children then this may need to be something you do early in the morning or late at night. Or, if your children are small and take naps, during their naps.

4. If there is no quiet place in your home (join the crowd!) then take advantage of quiet times. For me that might mean 3:00am. Of course, this may interfere with your sleep, but for those of you who wake up in the middle of the night—this may be the perfect time (and solution) for you. Use this time! (This happens to be my most productive time to write.)

5. If none of the above is an option then reserve protected time and a protected space. You may use noise-cancelling headphones, or play a meditative tape or music quietly through headphones. This is not the same as experiencing complete silence, but it will get you to the same place.

6. Clear out the other “noises” in your life. If your space is dirty, clean it up! If it is cluttered, clear it out! If your physical body is sluggish, eat nutritiously and exercise! If you’re in a bad relationship, leave it. Get rid of all of the other things that are creating noise in your life. It is near-impossible to find silence within if we are surrounded by everything but! It’s never late for spring-cleaning.

Remember, every place or space has its own energy. If you have chosen to live in a place that is inherently noisy, cluttered or hectic, you will have to devote more time and energy to creating that quiet protected space for yourself.

Happy Sound of Silence!

Now, listen to Simon and Garfunkel:

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