Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Science of Silence

Is your TV set  on? Is your stereo blasting or does your computer stream digital formatted noise through the speakers? Perhaps you are one of those peculiar individuals who can turn these devices off for a moment?
You should try it, even for a few minutes. Not everyone can do this because they need an escape from the sterile atmosphere of the concrete block they live in. Silence tastes like plastic and so we must have a diversion for the brain. Of course I am not saying that music is a bad thing, on the contrary it can be meditative and even therapeutic. However, the topic of today is quietening.

Even all the apparatuses and gadgets are turned off, there is still something buzzing. Something within ourselves. The leg is fidgeting or fingers keep tapping the corner of the table. Where is the switch to turn down the circuits of the brain? Maybe I have ADD? Some sort of hyperactivity? Go to the doctor, get a recipe and a bottle of pills. That seems like the common solution of our time - no matter what the problem is.

Alcohol could do the trick. Numb the nervous system a little bit. This is the logic by which we try to relax after a long week at work/school. Been there, done that. And I must admit it does loosen you up for a while. An escape from reality, reset the cache in the computer of your head. But then comes Monday, and it's time to go back to the mundane world.

"There's nothing you can do about it. That's life".
These are the arguments that people in the rat race tell you. They get a piece of cheese every now and then and carry on living in their maze. They have become so apathetic they don't even try to look for a way out.
They just keep saying these same worn out affirmations they have heard from others of their kind.

Everyone is busy. Some people are so busy they have no idea why they are so busy.
You just need to get from place A to place B as quickly as possible. Everything in between is nothing but a distraction and disturbance - people get in the way. Not fun. In place B you have to do X and then return to place A.

Will death repay your sleep deprivation? Surely you get to rest in the grave if you don't have time to do it now...
Well, I don't think so. I think that people still repeat these mechanical reflexes they have learned during decades of conditioning. "Rest in peace" says the priest but people keep on twitching around even if they have six feet of dirt on top of them.

It is not an easy task to find inner peace, and not many people even try to look for such thing. In order to do so one needs to take a brave, conscious step towards it. The familiar pattern needs to be broken but first it has to be identifed. Recognize the restlessness. It is impossible to get rid of something if you don't even see it in the first place. It is good to observe your own thoughts and actions. Next time you stand in the line in a grocery store or in the bank for example. Why is this so terrible? Why am I making myself miserable by cursing this slow operation? Am I really in a hurry? What if everything is OK after all? When you keep asking yourself these questions for a while you get a reward. You get to smile to the anxious world around you.

It is good to step out of the concrete jungle. If you have a chance to walk or cycle to work/school, you should do it.
If you can walk through a park or a forest, even better. When you begin to find beauty and satisfaction from smaller and smaller chores, you are on the right path. The greatest mistake is to set off to the other direction; you will always need to achieve more, do everything faster and more efficiently.

If you can leave the city lights behind you entirely you have a chance to experience a real quietening. Myself, I have gone hiking to Lapland for a week or so every summer since 2008. No TV, no internet, no phone, no electricity, no tap water, no walls around. Just a big backpack with a tent, cooker, food and clothes inside. Water for drinking and washing up is found in the river or lake. Perfect ingredients for quietening, and a recipe that works.

My last piece of advice is this.
When some of the following plagues of our modern society stars to crawl into your mind:

  1. I think I'll buy a new smartphone or a laptop (even though the ones I have keep me alive quite nicely)
  2. I think I'll buy a car (even though I can cycle to work in ten minutes and walk to the store in five)
  3. I think I'll buy a house (and live also the other half of my life in this same god-forsaken place)
...just don't do it. Rather, buy some time for yourself.