Our Body and Mindís Need For Silence
Zuri lives along a busy road and has become so accustomed to the sound of cars, trucks and motorcycles roaring by, that she no longer seems to notice. Her lack of sensitivity probably has a lot to do with the fact that her mother screamed at her for the whole time she was growing up. Zuri holds a great deal of stress within her body. The continual assault upon her senses makes it much more difficult for her to work through the emotions and issues that are having an impact upon her life. This is one of the many reasons she's wound up so incredibly tight.
There are so many noises invading our living spaces these days. We are inundated with the sounds of airplanes flying overhead, sirens, motor vehicles, car horns and alarms, music booming out of people's cars and our own stereo systems, television, toys and video games, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, power tools, people talking on their phones and barking dogs. People serving in the military and those who work in agriculture, construction, mining and transportation industries are constantly exposed to high thresholds of noise in their work environments.
The impact of noise upon childhood development
Parents living with lower levels of stress are able to be more present with their children. The excessive amount of noise that many of us are being subjected to on a continual basis is increasing and that is generating a great deal of additional stress. The increased level of stress that many parents are experiencing is having an adverse effect on the parent-child relationship, which in turn may have a negative impact on their children's overall development.
Infants exposed to continual noise in neonatal intensive care units may experience a disruption in their normal cycles of growth and development. That may impede the development of cognitive and language skills. They are also more likely to experience a much higher instance of hyperactivity and attentional problems in later childhood.
Chronic exposure to noise has an adverse effect upon children's ability to learn. Children who attend schools that are located under flight paths or alongside elevated train tracks tend to do poorly with reading and other basic learning skills. Students who have the opportunity to study in quieter learning environments generally do better.
The effect of noise upon our physical health
Exposure to loud noise acts as a stressor that can produce adverse health effects over time. Unwanted sound can either interrupt or prevent sleep. It may also prevent us from reaching the deeper levels of sleep needed for the body to fully rejuvenate itself. Chronic exposure to elevated levels of noise may also elevate blood pressure and heart rate and produce a number of other acute and chronic health effects.
It's important for us to be protective of our hearing because we can never regain it once it is lost. About 12% of American children and adolescents and 15% of the adult population suffer some degree of noise induced hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss can be caused by a one-time or repeated exposure to loud noise over extended periods of time. The frequency of noise induced hearing loss has increased dramatically since the sixties when the volume of music at concerts became progressively louder.
The use of headphones and ear buds can be exceptionally damaging because they are placed directly over or inside the ear canal. High intensity sound waves blast directly onto the ear drum since there is no protective buffering. People who listen to music through headphones and ear buds are also more likely to increase the volume to dangerous levels while riding busses, subways and commuter trains or traveling by airplane.
Many of us have come to accept excessive levels of noise as a normal part of our modern day to day lives. We may have become so accustomed to the noise that we no longer see any alternative. But a great deal of the noise we subject ourselves to on a daily basis can be significantly reduced if not altogether eliminated.
It's very difficult to know what we are feeling when the television or stereo is always on in the background. One of the primary reasons we place ourselves in such noisy environments and create so much unnecessary noise is to distract and desensitize ourselves so we don't have to be fully present.
Subways in major cities like New York and Boston are already very noisy. But many people riding the subways are spending so much of their commute listening to music on their iPods. We cannot reflect or process our emotions and the stresses of our daily lives when we are continually feeding music and other external input into our consciousness.
I sometimes feel as if my senses are being assaulted when Iím at other peopleís homes and the television is blasting in the background. I find the sound of a television and the rapidly shifting imagery to be very grating and that makes it very difficult for me to focus my attention. I usually get up and walk out of the room if at all possible.
Many have become so desensitized from years of continual exposure to television that it no longer fazes them. People often tell me they always leave their television or talk radio on in the background. They say it helps them to feel as if they have company and that prevents them from feeling so alone. Having the television on in the background is a distraction that prevents us from experiencing our true feelings. The problem with this approach is that it prevents us from processing our feelings of aloneness. These feelings tend to get stuck in our bodies and that reinforces the barriers that have grown between ourselves and others.
I started collecting music as a child and accumulated a huge collection of CDís over the years. I really enjoyed the music, but I was inadvertently trying to fill the emptiness inside of me. Working with various intensive spiritual practices has taken me through a process of evolution. I find myself needing a lot more quiet time. Time spent in silence makes it much easier for me to work through or process the feelings and issues that surface. It also makes it easier for me to tune into my intuition. I feel like Iím getting better reception.
The intensive practices I work with on a daily basis have made me much more sensitive to noise and other pollutants. My living space in Queens is fairly quiet by New York City standards, but I still find the sensory bombardment of life in the city to be overwhelming at times. Iím very thankful Iím not living in Manhattan where I would hear the sound of traffic 24/7 and garbage trucks picking up trash in the middle of the night or parts of the Bronx where people are blasting boom boxes out of their windows.
I really enjoy the relative quiet of Queens on Sunday mornings because the masses are not rushing to work, school buses are not picking up or discharging children, large trucks are not making deliveries and the noisy folks in the neighborhood are usually sleeping in. The quiet of Sunday mornings can never last long enough and there are times when I find myself craving silence. I can often feel myself decompressing when I have the opportunity to spend time in open spaces.
There were many instances during my training with my mentor Horace when we would ride for hours while driving across country without saying a word. Going without food and water during the vision quest can be very difficult at times. But one of the things I enjoy most about going through the vision quest is that I don't have to talk or listen to anyone for four days and nights. There's just something about the stillness and silence that renews and rejuvenates me.
Noise may not kill us but it certainly diminishes the quality of our lives by making them less enjoyable. Our body, mind and spirit cannot rejuvenate themselves when we are deprived of quiet time. Without quiet we are at greater risk of physical, mental and emotional breakdown. All human beings need quiet time as well as restful sleep so the body and can recuperate and repair itself.
One of the consequences of living in our modern day world is that we are so overwhelmed by everything that is happening around us and that leaves us very little time and space to process what's going on within ourselves. It is critically important for us to be mindful when buying or renting to choose a home located in a reasonably quiet setting. We also need to be mindful to eliminate unnecessary sources of noise such as television and electronic games.
All of us need time and space to digest our thoughts and feelings. This process is essential for our growth and development. This digestive process can only occur when we have time to reflect. True reflection can only happen when we have relative quiet and space combined with the intent to be fully present with all our bodily feeling senses.
Creating a quiet restful environment reduces the amount of stress placed upon our body-mind and that makes it easier for us to relax so that we can get the rest we truly need. The innate healing intelligence that resides within is then better equipped to replenish and repair the body. Our ability to process our emotions and issues will improve and this will facilitate new growth. We will respond better to whatís happening in our lives and the world around us will in turn respond better to us. Bodies that are less burdened by stress are much more enjoyable to live in. Feeling better will then improve the quality of our lives.