Winter weather has descended on many of us in full force in recent weeks. My brother called from New Hampshire to assure me that while yes, he is buried in snow, he is surviving. That’s what they do in New England! At that point, the total was 96 inches. Yikes! We’ve lived in the south for close to twenty years and while it’s not uncommon for us to be turning on the air conditioning when he’s pulling out his snow shovel, this year the heat has run pretty much non-stop. That was until our heat pump decided it was tired. The silence was deafening and noticeable even before the temperature in the house began to plummet. If you have forced air heat, like we do, you know what I mean!
True silence is hard to come by these days. I don’t know about you, but when a background noise like our heat stops, my whole body heaves a sigh of relief. It’s a reminder to me of how much stress can be created by sound. The sensation of our bodies relaxing is their way of saying, “Thank you. I really need the quiet.” Silence feeds us. External noise, especially extraneous sounds that are not particularly pleasing, is a stressor that can zap our energy.
There’s another kind of background noise, and that’s the running commentary that chips away at our self-confidence throughout the course of each day. It’s often a very unconscious dialogue, but it’s there nonetheless. I’m talking about those thoughts and comments to ourselves that are less than kind. I’ll give you an example, though it may not be necessary. You walk into a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee on your way to work. There’s a line at the counter and you’re running late. Your inner conversation may be something like, “I should have gotten up earlier. I’m already late, I should just go. But, I really want coffee. I stayed up too late. I should have gone to bed earlier. God, I wish I wasn’t so old. I wish I had more energy. I wish I looked like that woman there looks. I bet she isn’t going to be late for work.” You know what I mean, right?
In order to turn off, or turn down, the noise in our lives, internal or external, we first have to become aware of it. Occasionally we receive a free reminder when circumstances occur like our heater breaking. At other times it is necessary to be pro-active, to take specific steps to create a quieter world.
I have begun to turn off my phone and simply check it periodically for missed calls. Not everyone is happy about that, but it’s the best way I know how to downgrade my stress level and to create the quiet I need. How can you create a quieter world for yourself?
“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it.
It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”