The 8-Fold Path Wrap-Up

 

The 8-Fold Path for Living Daily in the Silence was designed to promote silence in one’s life, based on the understanding that silence is a benefit to us.

Over the past 14 weeks we’ve looked at the benefits of silence and by using the 8-Fold Path how to achieve silence in our lives every single day.

There are many benefits to silence. We live in a noisy world. Noise pollution is real. Noise pollution damages us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Silence repairs that damage. Silence helps us to return to wholeness.

The natural world, the world in which we as a distinct species arose and in which we lived for many hundreds of thousands of years, does not have the sound of cars and trucks in it, or that of bulldozers, or of aircraft.

The natural world is essentially quiet. The sounds in it are for the most part soft sounds. Thunder boomers are about as loud as the natural world gets, at least for most of us. Those soft sounds are what are natural to our bodies.

A look through history and the reaction to new inventions, especially the noisy ones of the industrial era, is interesting. The steam engine was condemned because it was noisy. The same for the internal combustion engine.  Improved technology made them quieter, especially the steam engine.

However, all one has to do is live next to a busy highway to know that cars and trucks are still very noisy affairs and dirty as well. Even inside our cars the noise level is loud enough to blot out the soft parts of a symphony. Toss in a piston aircraft engine from the local airport or a jet taking off and we’ve moved to a whole new level of noise. And let’s not even mention TV commercials, or such travesties of music as Death Metal.

Instinctively we value peace and quiet. And in our noisy world it is an all too rare phenomenon.

However, by following the 8-Fold Path we can reintroduce at least a modicum of silence into our lives.

I hope the series has been of benefit to you. Comments are always welcome and may you live daily in the silence.

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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: Why Silence?

Last week I touched on the benefits of silence. And that we don’t have a lot of silence in our daily lives. We are inundated with sound: some of our own choosing, most not. While I’m writing this, the “roar” of the forced air heating is quite significant. When it stops, there is a noticeable return to quiet for a few moments until a truck roars by on the busy county road I live just off of.

A quick search of the internet will give us dozens of reasons why silence is beneficial; physically, mentally, and spiritually. Let’s take a look at a few of the physical and mental benefits daily periods of silence can give us.

THE BRAIN

Daily periods of silence can improve our brains. A 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that walking three times in a week for 40 minutes improved spatial memory.

If we can change our setting, we give the brain something different to focus on and correlate with known data.

Most of us live in urban or suburban settings. If possible, take a walk in a park or some other natural setting. The greater the difference between the manmade and the natural, the better for our brains. Manmade noise tends to grate on our nerves. Natural sounds are much more soothing.

Go walking — without the iPod — in a natural setting. Let the natural sounds lave you with peace and tranquility.

In addition, regular periods of silence can actually stimulate brain growth.

A 2013 study, published in Brain Structure And Function, found sitting in silence for at least two hours a day could stimulate the creation of the new brain cells related to our ability to learn, remember, and emotions.

At least two hours, you may say? Who has time for that? Indeed. We live busy lives. Although some of us may have the time and that is a wonderful thing. However if you do not, I think the 8-Fold Path can help you by giving you a lifestyle of silence.

STRESS

Almost all of us are stressed. We live in a stressful world. Noise can lead to elevated levels of stress hormones — and who wants that?

Sometimes we resort to relaxing music or white noise to try relieving the stress we feel. The problem is music, no matter how relaxing, and white noise are still noise.

Silence, on the other hand, is the anti-noise, as it were. A 2006 study, which appeared in Heart, found that just two minutes of silence can release tension buildup in the body and in the mind. That sounds like a good deal to me. After all it’s only two minutes. Surely we have that much time to give to relieving stress.

INSOMNIA

It’s the pits when you can’t get to sleep. I used to hate it when it happened to me. There was nothing left to do but get up and perhaps read for a while until I felt tired.

On the other hand, daily silence can come to the rescue.

A 2015 study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found older adults who meditated had fewer episodes of depression, fatigue, and insomnia. And meditation is done in silence.

Sitting in meditation breaks the routine of busyness and noise in our lives and can break the never ending monologue our minds at times embark on.

I know from personal experience sitting in meditation and letting my mind just drift through thoughts and feelings, not focusing on anything, eventually results in my mind stopping the thought process and that’s when the stress and anxiety falls away.

SENSITIVITY

From personal experience I can tell you silence increases one’s sensitivity to outside stimuli. After a week of silence and solitude, my whole body became more sensitive. More sensitive to sounds, touch, sights, and even thoughts, my own and others. I even think my poor hearing improved for a time. At least people could speak a bit more softly, until things went back to normal.

SUMMARY

Daily practice of silence can be very beneficial, both physically and mentally. A lifestyle of silence even more so. And that’s just on the physical and mental plane.

Whether you are a person of faith or not, I believe the practice of silence, coupled with its companion solitude, can do wonders for your soul. In a sense, silence can pull you out of yourself and take you to a place where you can, even for a moment, touch that which is beyond us.

The late Canadian psychiatrist, Dr R.M. Bucke, wrote of his experience in his book Cosmic Consciousness. Dr Bucke wrote that after a wonderful evening with friends, on the long ride home, late at night, he was “in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment, not actually thinking, but letting ideas, images, and emotions flow of themselves, as it were, through my mind.” In other words, Dr Bucke was unconsciously meditating in silence. What happened next changed his life forever. Here are his words:

All at once, without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame-colored cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city; the next, I knew that the fire was within myself. Directly afterward there came upon me a sense of exaltation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the contrary, a living presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life.

Those of faith will see Dr Bucke’s testimony as evidence of their beliefs. Those not of faith will possibly attribute his vision to some other cause. For myself, I see a man who was not especially religious in the span of a few moments suddenly become convinced there is something beyond himself. Dr Bucke’s experience is, however, indicative of what many mystics have found to be true: silence and solitude can connect one with the beyond.

Most of us, though, are probably seeking a more day to day benefit. And silence certainly provides that. However, as with any practice, you get out of it what you put into it. If you simply want less stress and better memory, silence can help you achieve some of that. And less stress, along with better mind function, is a very good reason to start your journey into silence. And who knows where it may end.

Next time we’ll explore just exactly what is this silence I’m talking about.

Until then, take some time, each day is preferable, to just unplug and get away to a place with minimal noise. Then just let your mind drift, not focusing on anything. Let me know what you think.

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