The Importance of Silence, Meditation and Staying Calm
Peace, Love and Happiness
Nature’s wonder is silence. Once when I traveled to the inner city of Venice, Italy I found the most stunning attribute to be its silent streets. Stand in the quiet back alleys; hold your breath and what do you hear? Nothingness. The streets of water means that boats float gently pass instead of paved highways detracting the quiet with blaring car horns and rushing people. You can appreciate a moment of tranquility especially anyone who lives in a big city can with all the noise pollution, ambulance, car horns, construction work, chatting, and bystanders.
So what is the importance of silence? It may seem like an unusual topic, but I believe it has something to do with keeping yourself in a calm state of mind. I’ve made it a point to stay peaceful at mind and my friends always point out how calm I usually am. Stress is a normal function of the body under times of extreme pressure, but it only makes things worst to panic. You cannot think clearly if you are panicking. I have a friend who suffers from anxiety attacks in crowds after a traumatic childhood experience. I told him that he needs to find a quiet location, like the men’s bathroom stall, to sit for a while take a deep breath, count backwards from ten and possibly wash your hands afterward otherwise you look like a gross jerk. Pretending to take a number two (for men at least you know it’s a number two if they have to use the stall), it gives you a chance to calm down take it easy. This could be effective in any quiet place like the stairwell or hallway of a building. If you’re stressed out during a board meeting or difficult test, if you can escape for a second please do so. Isolate yourself for a moment or just take yourself somewhere where you can collect your thoughts. Try a breathing technique with deep heavy breaths, close your eyes and slowly count back from ten. It will be okay, I promise. Everyone’s different, so if there’s a better way of calming yourself down then silence please find it, your immune system will love you more.
There are other purposes to silence like concentration. It’s nearly impossible to focus when the noise level is drowning out your own thoughts. Think about school and how quiet is enforced in the library and for examination purposes. Most people can’t process loud music and focus enough on their book or test to finish it. One of the reasons for ADD is thought to be the multiple potential distractions that children cannot focus on one task before moving to the next. If you have children who don’t listen then have some sort of punishment like a quiet time out. I use to love those as a kid. I would sit and think about things. I was an unusual kid though. I’ve heard it works for dogs because about twenty seconds isolated from others is like an eternal punishment for the little mutts. Alright so kids are little mutts, but it may work for children too.
This raises another point. Listening. Children in class that talk the whole time while the teacher’s talking will never learn a damn thing. You simply cannot listen to someone else if you have your mouth always flapping about something. If you’re the type of person to cut someone off between sentences you’re really not listening and you’re losing valuable information. To concentrate you need to listen, but in order to pay attention in the first place you must stay quiet. I was a pretty quiet kid growing up. I’ve always loved learning new bits of information and facts. People always asked me why I didn’t say much. I told them repeatedly I just didn’t have anything to say. Why talk when there’s so much more to listen to and so much to think about?
Ever heard of the expression “don’t speak with your mouth full”? It’s a funny thought, but when you sit down at a dinner table you and your friends are chatterboxes along as there are just drinks and appetizers. Pay attention the next time you’re at a restaurant. The table usually goes silent when the entrée arrives. In this silence you can enjoy the food you’re eating by really tasting the flavors. When you eat with your mouth stuffed full of a Philly cheese steak, you’re not savoring the moment. I appreciate good food just like anyone, but I highly revere the few people who say grace before a meal. In my opinion, not only are they thankful for the food, but their willing to take a few seconds of quiet gratitude knowing there are others who go to bed hungry.
Eating is just a biological function and when our stomach contracts and starts growling we just respond by in taking anything in front of us. It’s not the only biological function that silence is necessary. Don’t you hate it when you’re just about to fall asleep and some A-hole in your dorm or apartment starts yelling at his video game because he’s losing Guitar Hero. Or how about when you’re waking up in the morning and some damn birds start chirping or passing ducks start quaking really loudly. Makes you want to go old school with a Duck Hunt like that video game and take out a bright orange remote control gun and shoot them all and let your dog pick up the pieces. Okay, or maybe not, but we’ve all been woken up early or not been able to sleep some nights because of noise, especially for the sensitive sleepers. I’m from a quiet suburban town in North Carolina and to wake up in the peaceful morning is like nothing in the world. Around autumn the browning leaves sparkle like pieces gold along the mountain range. Okay, so I’m getting a little dramatic, but silence is important for sleep and sleep is essential for a good healthy body and brain. Honestly, if you tried to stay up for longer than two weeks you would either die from brain lesions, or your forebrain would shut down temporarily leaving you as senseless as your 21rst birthday!
Noise can be internal like words from your own lips, or it can be external like noises from a passing ambulance. I would say silence is the same way. The room and environment around you can be so quiet that you can hear someone fart within a twenty mile radius of you. Also, keep in mind that there is an internal silence and peace. I feel that the Buddhist and their ancient methods of meditation and concentration make a good example of an internal tranquility. Sorry to turn a little philosophical on you, but it’s the only way to explain the way of the Buddha. Essentially people perform self-deprecating behaviors and end up suffering. Suffering is a product of our pain in life and the resistance we have to it. It should be an assumption of everyone’s life no matter how rich or poor that there will be a balance of pleasure and pain in your life. If there’s no pain, you’re living in an illusion; if there’s no pleasure, you live in a depression. The practice of meditation is meant to increase your mindfulness. Staying mindful takes practice. You must first realize that your life and your thoughts are constantly changing around you. Do not become fixated on any problem, but watch your problems and allow they to roll over your spirit like a water over a riverstone.
This leads back to silence. It’s not the only way to achieve this state of mindfulness, but it will make a good start. Remaining calm in times of strife is a goal of mediation. Becoming in tune with your body can be achieved by becoming “mindful” of your location in space and the thoughts that flow through your mind. As long as you are awake your train of thoughts will flow so don’t resist them. Returning to the water simile, if you resist your thoughts you will build them up like the Hoover Dam. Knocking down the floodgates of your mind should allow your thoughts to flow without creating stress causing ailments. Meditation is the first step towards spiritual healing and a better understanding of your inner spirit. Whether you believe in the soul or not I don’t know and I can’t convince you one way or the other. However, many cannot deny the existence of a mind. Like the great philosopher Descartes “I think therefore I am.” Thinking clearly, staying calm, and resting your mind at peace will help you throughout your life.
Staying calm is not easy, but panicking is all too easy. It’s a habit that you must acquire if you want to cut back the stress in your life. Accept life and accept pain as it comes to you. We use silence in many ways including that of respect for others. You should stay quiet when sharing the theater house with your fellow audience members. We stay quiet for a moment of silence when remembering the dead. Respect yourself as you would respect others and stay quiet and calm. Life will flow so much easier.
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