Seeking more silence a must in our noisy modern world
In a previous column, I pointed out the obvious truth that modern life is fast-paced. It is also noisy — though, like the proverbial fish in water, we may be less conscious of this fact. Nevertheless, in our towns, and especially in our cities, it is nearly impossible to escape the ceaseless rattle, hum, roar, screech and clang of modern life.
If you have the good fortune to live in a relatively quiet place, or if you make the effort on occasion to get to such a place, then you’ve probably experienced the healing effect of even a day or two away from constant noise. Thoughts gradually slow down, the body relaxes and, eventually, the mind becomes at least a bit clearer.
Often, in the midst of such an experience, we gain a new perspective on our daily life that we could not have obtained in the distraction of our noisy home environments.
Recently I visited two quiet places: one in a remote location outdoors, and the other in a church in the middle of Chattanooga. Both experiences reminded me forcefully of the benefits of silence.
The first place was Raccoon Mountain, where my family and I took a short hike one breezy Sunday afternoon in October. Our unplanned destination was a grove of cypress trees encircling a small pond. The trail took us right past the pond, and we decided to stop and look around.
The quiet of the place was palpable. Underneath each intermittent sound we made or heard in the distance, a ruling silence could be felt. Gradually, it stole into me. Even though I was moving around, talking with my daughter, taking pictures, I sensed my body and mind relaxing.
For a few moments, my internal agenda began to dissolve. I felt I could spend hours in this spot just sitting, watching and listening to the life of the place unfold.
Of course, with a 3-year-old and a 9-monthold in tow, I was not permitted to follow this impulse. But I recognized its importance and the deep need it revealed.
The second place was a church just outside my neighborhood in South Brainerd.
I went in the morning on a weekday, when there was no service scheduled. Sitting in a pew near the front of the sanctuary, I could hear people moving about behind me occasionally. A few walked quietly up to pray before the crucifix behind the altar.
I had come to the church from a local coffeehouse, a pleasant place but too noisy for focused reading and writing, which is what I was doing that particular morning. The conversations and background music at the coffeehouse prevented my mind from dipping below the surface of thought.
But at the church, where silence reigned and my presence was allowed without question or offers of assistance, I began to experience the same kind of slowing down and settling in that I had felt in the cypress grove. The words I read sank deeper, and my written reflections took shape easily in the clarifying quiet.
I came away from both the mountain and the church with a new resolve to seek out silence as much as possible.
L.B. Blackwell has been practicing Eknath Easwaran’s passage meditation for 10 years. He lives in Chattanooga with his wife and two daughters. He blogs at mundaneway. blogspot.com.