In today’s world of media madness, peace and quiet are undervalued. People are constantly “plugged in”, whether they are using their phone, listening to music, or surfing the Internet (or any combination thereof). There is a television blaring in every possible location, from our workplace cafeteria, to the nail salon, to the gas station pump, to the back seat of a New York taxi, and now even at the “better” restaurants. A large screen TV recently appeared at my favorite local ice cream shop, so now I can watch television while I wait in line to order my ice cream sundae. Even the small child in the baby carriage is playing a game on a computer tablet. Do we all need to be entertained at every possible moment?
Sometimes I wonder if all this media stimulation is normal or if this barrage of information is going to make me crazy. Lately, I’ve been driving home from work with the radio turned off. As I enjoy the purr of my new car’s engine, I try to breathe deeply and decompress. When I take the pug boys for our daily walk, I take in the sights and sounds of my city neighborhood, and enjoy the tranquil greenery in the local park.
Last weekend I was at a quilt retreat with 17 other women. As you can imagine, it was a lively venue with several loud conversations going on simultaneously over the hum of multiple sewing machines. On Saturday night, the girls de-camped for dinner en masse, while I waited to meet my husband. Suddenly, I was completely alone in a large hotel conference room. The ensuing silence was welcoming, yet at the same time, almost an unfamiliar sensation. Peace and quiet surrounded me like a pair of two fluffy pillows. I embraced it.
When I googled “a world full of noise”, I expected to find studies on noise pollution or the invasiveness of the media, so I was surprised that the first several pages of references were actually religious or spiritual. One book title piqued my interest: In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise. I haven’t read it yet, but in an NPR interview, author George Prochnik says, “quiet spaces are essential because they can inject us with a fertile unknown: a space in which to focus and absorb experience."
Where is your quiet space? How often do you unplug? Do you meditate or practice yoga breathing?