The 8-Fold Path-Step 6: Valuing the Sound of Silence

For the past few weeks we’ve talked about talking. Specifically, how we can limit it or eliminate it altogether. Both our own talking and the talking of others.

Today we’re going to look at Step 6 on The 8-Fold Path for Living Daily in the Silence, which is

Value Silence Over Man-Made Sounds

Most of us willingly bombard ourselves with sound. Whether it be the radio, or the TV, or the iPod, or streaming movies and music, we rarely find ourselves soundless. And that’s not counting things such as the dishwasher, garbage disposal, or vacuum sweeper.

Now we probably don’t want to go too long without running the dishwasher or the vacuum. The making of those sounds we pretty much can’t do without. Although we do have the option of earplugs to dampen or eliminate their noise.

I’m more concerned with the first items I mentioned, which are often used as white noise machines. Noise producers to cancel out unwanted noise. Of course, we often want to listen to music, or stream a TV show or movie. And that’s perfectly alright.

What I’m getting at is more the notion that instead of valuing sound, we value no sound — that is, silence. Instead of always having music playing in the background or the radio or the TV, we shut off the sound producers and revel in the sound of no sound, other than that which naturally occurs.

Why? you may ask. White noise is noise. It’s a bit oxymoronic to make noise to cancel out noise. If you don’t want sound, then eliminate the sound and if you can’t do that, then block it from being heard. Why make more noise to block noise?

Now you may be saying, my white noise is more pleasant to listen to than the noise I don’t want to hear, which is disturbing me. Okay. I get that. But does your white noise totally block out the other noise? If not, then you haven’t really achieved your goal. You’ve only added more noise to your world.

When I was a working stiff, I resorted to headphones and music to cancel out the work noise that I found annoying. The problem was, I still heard the disturbing noise unless I had the volume up to painful levels. Which also meant others could also hear my noise and when they in turn complained about my noise, I had another problem on my hands. In addition, the noise around me came through loud and clear during soft spots in the music or between songs. So, again, the white noise wasn’t a very good solution.

The better solution was the use of earplugs — which eliminated the unwanted noise altogether. I felt much calmer and more at peace when there was no stimulation of any kind. And who doesn’t want more calm and peace in his or her life?

Now I love music and that shows up in a lot of my writing. However, the older I get the more I find I value silence over sound. And as my hearing continues to deteriorate and I have to up the volume to uncomfortable levels just to hear the sonata over the hissing of my tinnitus, I find it much more peaceful to simply eliminate the sound altogether.

Ultimately, if we want peace and tranquility in our lives, we have to promote peace and tranquility. It won’t happen by magic. We have to work for peace and tranquility in our lives. Noise pollution is real and it does cause physical damage as well as create emotional tension and anxiety. And we live in a very noisy world.

Besides, the music we love we’ll appreciate that much more if we aren’t constantly hearing it. Ever play a song or a concerto after not hearing it for some time? Doesn’t it sound fresh and exciting again?

Valuing silence over man-made sounds will bring us greater peace and tranquility — as well as greater appreciation of the sounds we love. A win-win in my book.

Comments are always welcome and until next time spend some time valuing the sound of silence!

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The 8-Fold Path-Step 2: Avoid Talking

 

Unless we are hermits or are living in an eremitic cloister, it’s going to be fairly difficult to avoid talking altogether. And I don’t think we should as long as we live in the broader human society.

Therefore step 2 on The 8-Fold Path for Living Daily in the Silence is to

Avoid situations where I’m obligated to talk.

However, we can’t always avoid talking. We have spouses or partners, parents and siblings, bosses and coworkers, customers or patients — and all of these folks generally expect us to talk to them. And to avoid them would probably cause us more problems than any amount of silence might benefit us.

Nevertheless, there are ways in which we can minimize getting ourselves into situations where we have to talk.

For example, with spouses and partners we can often substitute a non-verbal gesture for a verbal one. Touching can often communicate far more than words.

When my mother was alive avoiding verbal communication was nigh impossible. However, I could often go to a different part of the house or go for a walk. With my father, since he talks very little, there’s no problem living daily in the silence. Although, he does like music and he plays it rather loudly. That’s where those earplugs come in handy.

Work is perhaps the biggest challenge. But even there, we can pursue silence and we’ll get into this more in the next three points.

When I was employed, talking was part of my job. So it was difficult to avoid it completely. However, since my schedule was somewhat flexible, I could come in early when no one was around and leave early before the Chatty Kens and Cathys came around.

However, you may not have the luxury of a flexible schedule. If not, then over the next three weeks I’ll give you some tools that will at least promote the spirit of silence.

While work may be the biggest challenge, living with other people can be equally daunting if we want to avoid situations where we are obligated to talk. Non-verbals can help. But they can’t eliminate the fact that most people like to talk. It is then incumbent upon us to find ways where we don’t hurt feelings in order to promote silence.

Going for a walk or hanging out in a different part of the house can help. But if those don’t work, then you may just have to ask for some silence time and there’s nothing wrong with that.

As always, comments are welcome. Let me know if you have other ideas or other techniques that work for you. Until next time, listen to the sound of silence!

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The 8-Fold Path

Noise is all around us. It is part of our daily lives. Silence is a rare commodity. Something not true up to 100 or 125 years ago.

And with all that noise pollution our bodies suffer: hearing loss, tinnitus, and sleep problems to name but three.

A few years ago I went on two silence and solitude retreats. I’m lucky to have a retreat center about an hour’s drive away. Both times I spent a week at the center. The retreat was unguided. Just me, my hermitage, and a beautiful lake, prairie, and woods.

Unfortunately, even there in that pristine environment urban noise could be heard in the muffled distance. But inside the soundproofed hermitage, there was no noise. There was silence and a beautiful view out the picture window of nature in all her glory.

For a time I owned a hobby farm in very rural northeastern Iowa. Beautiful country. Hilly, wooded, and dotted with small farms. Spring and autumn did bring with them the sounds of tractors at work. Summer, the sound of insects and cattle lowing. However, it was in winter that silence reigned. For many minutes at a time one might hear absolutely nothing. Nothing. And then a pick up truck might drive by on the road some distance away. When it was gone, the silence returned.

In those moments of absolute silence in the winter on my hobby farm or sitting inside my hermitage, looking at the trees and the lake, a peace would descend upon me and fill my soul.

I’m not one for organized religion. To tell the truth, I’m not into religion at all (although I do have an affinity for mysticism). However, in those moments of silence, it was as though I’d been transported to something beyond myself. The experience was indeed mystical. “Be still and know that I am God.” The psalmist was definitely on to something. Or Elijah, in the cave, where he heard God — not in the noise — but in the still, small voice.

Silence is golden. In the cacophony surrounding us that truth is easy to forget. In stillness, free from sound, I am free to know myself. In solitude, away from others, I must come to grips with who I am. Then and there I come to the realization if I’m truly someone whose company is desirable. For if I’m not likable to myself, how can I like others? If I do not love myself, how can I truly love others?

Not all of us, though, can take the time off to go on an extended retreat. Although I do recommend you give it a try. The experience can be life-changing. But for those who can’t afford a retreat, there is an alternative.

Over the next several weeks I want to share with you a way I found to capture the beauty of silence and to live in that silence every day. And you don’t have to become a hermit or retire to a cloister to do it. The method will work for everyone everywhere. It is independent of faith or philosophy, although either can enrich the method.

I call it The Eight Fold Path For Living Daily In The Silence.

I hope you’ll walk with me on this path and in so doing reap the benefits of silence, and its companion solitude.

Comments are always welcome. If you’ve experience the joy of silence and solitude, please share your experience. Until next time, peace!

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