Sound and Silence

Sound and Silence

When I wrote this blog it was raining outside, mist sitting on the western hillside and a steady comforting hum in the air from the constant, gentle, deluge. It was early in the morning and the trees full of birds, each one calling into the new day to announce its aliveness and presence with their unique songs, trills, and whistles.

How comforting sounds can be.

Listening to sounds can induce many emotions. A friend of mine who could never conceive a child, cries even now at the sound of a baby’s gurgle, and who has not been moved by a song, connecting us directly to the feelings of the past, some sharp, some sad, some sweet, but always evocative.

As we grew up my sisters and I would put a particular record on the player (no ipods then) just to see our mother cry, which she did every time she heard this particular piece of music. We never did ask her why, and she never would tell us, perhaps a sign of the times when personal emotion was held private rather than something to seek attention from. Anyway, many years later when visiting her grave, we finally saw the reason for her tears. There on the gravestone of her younger brother buried next to her, was the title of that song ‘arrivederci darling’ – goodbye, ‘til we see each other again…

Sound itself is an energy transmitted by pressure waves; a sensation perceived by us as the sense of hearing. People with hearing loss can often ‘hear’ some sound, particularly the humming sound from a brass string or the boom of drums. However, as with any sense, if that sense is lost our amazing brain rewires itself to capture that under used section into the other senses, sometimes creating a ‘super sense’ such as increased sense of sight for the hearing impaired.

Sounds and Healing

Sounds have been used for healing for centuries to clear energetics blockages and reduce stress. From classical music and the sound of nature’s fauna, winds, and waters to percussive instruments like drums, gongs and singing bowls.

Listening to particular sounds can alleviate stress and expedite healing.

For some listeners, moving into a meditative state helps to calm the mind, and in turn the amygdala the brains emotion processor, allowing a cooling of process and a subsequent reduction of inflammation throughout the body. Turned outward, deep listening is a practice of deep connection.

It’s interesting to note that human beings only register the hearing of sound within a certain frequency, yet a person does not have to consciously hear something to be affected.

Watching a science based tv program on sounds that trigger fear recently, a low frequency sound was played to a group of people to (successfully) prove an increased fear activation, regardless of it being soundless. Interesting. On the other end, hearing sound from the so called ‘God Frequency’ – 963 Hz – activates the pineal gland, clearing brain fog, and giving cool clarity to thought processes and peace.

There is much more of the effects of sound on the human being to be discovered, but in the meantime the effects are certainly something for us to consider in our daily lives.

Silence

You would think that silence is the absence of sound, yet even silence can have a texture or resonance.

Who has not ‘heard’ the sound texture of a tense electric silence, perhaps with a felt potency within it that ‘anything can happen’, or experienced the awkward discomfort and tightness of a strained silence?

And what about the texture of silence after a stunning theatre performance before the applause breaks out to shatter it, or the deep dense quiet of a snow-covered mountain, the humming open silence of a dessert, or the full, soft silence of a rainforest?

Silence and Spirituality

For time immemorable people have used silence to connect with nature, the creation and the Creator.

I live on Whadjuk Noongar land in Australia, and Aboriginal people have a few words to describe silence, or deep listening. One of them, called ‘dadirri’, is practiced without judgement and with no expectation, it’s just about quietly waiting with awareness, and an inner open stillness.

Writing for Creative Spirits, Aboriginal Elder Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann described deep listening as “ … inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us … lived for thousands of years with natures quietness. My people today, recognise and experience in this quietness, the great Life-Giving Spirit, the Father of us all”.

Many spiritual practices include deep listening, such as the Budhist insight (Vipassana) meditation, or the Christian spiritual training of Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading. In all the phases of Lectio Divina – reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating –silence is practised, but in particular the last phase. In this phase a deep inner silence is mainatained, a open still awareness that is also an invitation to experience insights from the Spirit of God within.

As well as a deeper spiritual connection, many people use silence regularly as a mental and emotional health tool. Whatever form it takes, from long walks to quiet sitting, the practice of silence is about becoming more attuned and responsive to the inner life of ourselves, rather than reacting to the outer. 

An informal way of practicing silence – and one that quickly reveals the fruits of doing it – is to simply choose a time to practice it. Famously, Actor Steve Mc Queen practiced silence for a whole day each month for most of his life. If a day is too long for you, start with less, even a tiny 3 seconds before responding to anyone can reveal so much, not least that mostly our responses are either reactive or empty, or are often not needed at all.

So much energy and presence can be gained by consicous silence.

Silence is a significant part of many contemplation and meditation practices, with mindfulness bringing in awareness of the moment-by-moment experience to the fore, rather than seeking to silence it. If, however, you choose to be quiet or meditate to find inner stillness, know that deep silence can be hard to reach and hold against the ongoing internal dialogue and noise, regardless of how quiet or fitting the place of practice is. Hence the term to accept before beginning a silent or meditation practice is to note the term used, a ‘practice’.

Moving toward more inner silence in our lives helps us to channel our energies, meditate and rebalance from the noise and activity of the experiences of outer life. It can allow a new perspective, and within that an opportunity to recognise the paradigms through which we view the world. In turn this allows the freedom of choice, should we wish to change or expand them.

Silence is indeed golden, a golden opportunity toward achieving a deep inner quiet, and the path toward equanimity and peace.

Lectio Divina, Mindfulness and quieting Meditations can be found here …

AL

A Personal Experience of Meditation

A Personal Experience of Meditation

The timer goes off and you slowly start to move away from the meditative state, momentarily carrying a blissful sense of the stillness and silence within you and the flicker of pure happiness or joy.

You smile at the anomaly that all the circumstances surrounding you, from your own personal situation to the state of the world on the news, have not changed.

But you have.

You have opened your eyes and, just for a short time, see things through a slightly less clouded veil of habit and ego.

So for a while you remain in this deep well of well-being; perfectly poised in the balance that “nothing matters” and yet “everything matters profoundly”.

You understand the sages’ advice that time is so short we should all move more slowly. In fact for a few more moments, it will be impossible to do anything but move in a much more measured way.

Even though you are often aware right up to the moment the timer goes off that your mind is still getting periodically dis-tracted by a ‘treeful of monkeys’ throwing random thoughts, emotions and desires into the mix, you have slowed down.

You have gone deeper.

The demands of daily life and the issues of the day are fast closing in on you, but you still feel that lingering connection to your, gradually receding, meditative state. Somehow you understood the wise words of the mystics, although you neither know how or why, that:

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”.

Although, as your rational mind tells you, in the material realm, they are most clearly not.

You know of the fear and despair the scientists feel, and the frustration and anger of the young. You have felt it too.
How can you not when you really think things through? But you sense too the antidote contained in acceptance of the statement, “This too shall pass”.

Everything, shall pass, sooner or later. And the acceptance of that fact brings settlement.

Without doubt, in the not too distant future, our little planet will have changed so much that it will become increasingly inhospitable to us guilty humans, as well as to many other much more innocent creatures.

Yet in another realm of understanding you feel the strange hope in the words of the Desiderata and know that:

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars and whether it is clear to you or not, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

Your human life has a purpose, it has meaning; for the short time we are able to remain on Earth, we have to connect into that and be as … and do … what we can to fulfil it.

Despite the weight of the encroaching future of the world you ‘re-member’, you link back to the feeling of being momentarily totally happy and at peace.

You touched the one thing that all a human really needs, as the yogis say, to unfold the spiritual life is to be patient in all circumstances. And then the cheerful monkey in your mind makes you laugh at the fact that “patience” anagrams to “peace tin”.

And what is meditation, (or gardening, or painting, or poetry writing or even washing up with awareness,) except the practice of being patient, for however long you are able to keep faithfully paying attention. Allowing a mantra to help clean out the chambers of the soul and, as Mirabai Starr so sweetly puts it, “Wait for the grace to come.”

So you wait. Stay calm. Put on peace and hope to get some spiritual wisdom.

And sometimes in those peaceful moments you do just ‘get it’.

You are suddenly part of that greater whole. The one underlying current of the energy of peace gently throbbing in the heart of all.

And you stay a moment, you pause in time, realising you are in it now…

 

Guest Blog by Amanda Brown, Yoga Practitioner and Teacher UK

Access meditations … here …

AL

Pause, Reset, Play

Pause, Reset, Play

A simple technique for self regulation.

Anything and everything in life can be stressful, even playing. Whilst there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ stress, we all know that extended, ongoing stress can become chronic which can be extremely harmful to our body, mind and well-being.

Dr Walter Cannon, who is credited with creating the term ‘fight or flight’ as the ultimate automatic reaction in an extreme stress situation, defines stress as anything that requires us to expend energy to maintain a stable, regulated internal environment.

Hidden stress, stress that is present in our bodies but that we are mainly un-aware of, can affect us adversely at work, and in our children at school. Hidden stress is one of the factors that prevents the energy needed for self-regulation being available. Without self-regulation stress can become exacerbated and, ultimately, chronic.

How then can we help ourselves maintain an internal balanced state? How can we lay down a track toward inner stability and calm?

Bringing mindful awareness into our lives is one. Try this short awareness technique virtually anytime, anywhere and as often as possible to help form a new and useful habit …

  1. PAUSE. Take a moment to stop whatever we are doing, thinking or emoting about; if you can, gently close your eyes. Now breathe deeply, right down into the body; follow the breath with the mind, feeling the sensations in the body as the breath flows in, down, lifting the abdomen and belly, then collapsing as the breath flows out … If you feel to, allowing the outbreaths to flow just a little longer …
  2. RESET. Now, just staying with the breath, but not trying to change it in any way, allowing it to fall into its own natural rhythm, giving time for self-regulation to begin … noticing any thoughts, sounds or sensations and simply letting them go … no irritation, no frustration, just noting and letting go, then gently bringing your attention back to the breath as it flows in and out of the body, moment by moment …
  3. When you are ready, PLAY on …

You can vary or extend the reset by simply allowing your awareness to flow out to the sounds around you; knowing that as sound occurs, hearing happens automatically, no effort or striving needed, just open to hearing sound as it happens, naturally…

If your someone who can’t bear to be still, then try walking, experiencing in a real way the flex and placement of the foot – heal, pad, toe, the shift, balance and movement of the passage of the leg before the flex and placement of the foot again …

Children find finger movements to a piece of gentle music a great way to bring awareness and rebalance, also drawing or defined movement …

See our meditations page for awareness and walking meditations – have fun.
AL