Listen to the Quiet

It must have been the middle of the night when I was awoken by the patter of rain on my tent. I jumped up and unzipped the door to quickly gather up all our stuff strewn around the campsite haphazardly. I was stumbling around in the dark throwing bits and pieces into bags and into my tent, hoping that the rain wouldn’t start coming down harder. Satisfied that I had gotten the most important things under shelter, I zipped myself back in under the covers, checked the time (3 AM- yikes!) and tried to fall back asleep. I had just barely fallen back into a light slumber when I heard a frantic rustling, this time made by my daughter who had gotten up to move stuff in from the rain that had started up again. I sat up and told her I had already moved everything in and I was having a hard time going back to sleep after the night’s rain charades.

As she headed back to her tent she said, "listen to the quiet." In the still of the night in the forest by the lake there was only silence and the peacefulness that comes with this kind of natural noiselessness. It was precisely this stillness that enveloped me into a deep and restful sleep.

Reflecting on the idea of listening to the quiet, I realized that we now live in a world full of noise and commotion. Where I live in Portland, I awake each morning to the sound of helicopters zooming around to broadcast traffic conditions to the early morning commuters. Every morning they disturb what could have been an extra hour or two of precious sleep for me. If it’s not helicopters it’s noisy neighbors, barking dogs, and oh yes, my favorite neighbor’s truck without a muffler that he goes to work in at 3 AM.

I often wonder if most people have become immune to the barrage of sounds in our noise-filled world. We are constantly surrounded by air and road traffic, sirens and horns, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, dogs barking, technology, and unruly neighbors. These manmade noises tend to completely overpower the noises made by mother nature. I know that these noises are part of the tradeoffs that come with living in a city, but it got me thinking that perhaps many people haven’t even experienced true and pure quiet. It’s a shame really, because sounds are one of our most important senses and experiencing isolated sounds can be incredibly healing.

Sound is used extensively in scientific research, in integrative medicine practices, and has been a pain management tool for thousands of years. Sound has the power to transform energy patterns, show measurable effects in the physical body and help to create a deeper connection between the mind, body and spirit. Certain sounds (including silence) can be used to help treat and prevent depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and diseases.

Since I rediscovered just how incredible noiselessness can be on my camping trip, I’ve tried to make time to experience the sound of the quiet and stillness that nature provides us more often. Incorporating time of complete peacefulness can be very healing. If you cannot get away into nature, away from motors, people and technology, then meditating can help instill some stillness in your mind. You may be surprised at how invigorated and alive you feel after just a few hours enveloped in the silence of nature.


12 Tips for Peaceful Living

1. Tune out distractions that can cause chaos and drama in your head.

2. Meditate or sit and focus only on your breathing each day (preferably at the same time). This will train your mind to slow down and quiet the busyness and mind chatter.

3. Turn your television off except when you are actually watching it.

4. Listen to relaxing music as an isolated event. Sit or lay down and allow yourself to hear the different instruments or voices individually.

5. Make a fire, observe the flames and let them mesmerize you into a state of relaxation.

6. Light a candle or several candles and stare into the flame(s), letting yourself be absorbed in their flickering dances.

7. Clean up your clutter. Looking around and seeing a serene environment can cut the noise in your mind.

8. Chant or listen to chants - even though you are creating noise, these types of sounds can help you to quiet your mind and can be healing.

9. Put on soft relaxing music in your home. While there is not a best type of music to soothe your mind, body and spirit, there are some genres that are more healing, like classical, harp, instrumental and nature sounds.

10. Put up a poster in your workspace of a nature scene that is soothing for your nerves.

11. Learn to welcome silence, especially if it makes you uncomfortable. With silence can come the most unexpected inspirations.

12. Live in the present moment. It is much more pleasant and quieter for your mind, body and spirit.

Eilise Ward