So Quiet You Could Hear . . . .

Please accompany me on a chain reaction of sounds, thoughts, and connections.

Our lives have a constant soundtrack; shifting between melodious, cacophonous, subliminal, annoying, pleasant, etc. Given this, it’s hard to escape the pulse. About a year ago, a house behind us underwent a major renovation. Every day (yes, even Sundays) our lives were accompanied by the ever-present sounds of buzz saws, hammering, and chain saws added to the perennial sound announcing the ending of fall—the leaf blower.

At times, just before going to bed, my wife would say, “Listen,” and we become aware of silence. How often do you have the opportunity to experience quiet during your day? When was the last time? How long did it last? Were you comfortable with it? Or did it grate on your nerves? Did you have difficulty just being quiet with yourself?

Having trained people in various gyms, I adjusted to the reality that the music, usually blaring, is an integral part of the experience. In fact, for many people this beat is motivation and just as important as the weights they’re lifting. I once worked in a facility where the speakers were on the floor, and the volume was so loud I had to talk directly into my clients’ ears just to be heard by them. No wonder being employed in such environments made me relish silence.

I enjoy finding quiet respites to my day; upon leaving them, the jarring cacophony of modern life returns. When you’ve had similar experiences: Do you feel your stress returning? Do you tense up? Find it harder to concentrate? Then, your body is sending clear messages to you regarding the importance of quiet in your life.

In an essay “The Joy of Quiet,” Pico Iyer, says about himself: “I’ve yet to use a cellphone, and I’ve never Tweeted or entered Facebook. I try not to go online till my day’s writing is finished, and I moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part so I could more easily survive for long stretches entirely on foot, and every trip to the movies would be an event.” Iyer also writes about how for more than 20 years he goes to a Benedictine hermitage a few times a year to have some distance from the world.

We may not wish to or have the luxury to live as Iyer does. What I take away from him and my reactions as I leave quiet surroundings to reenter my daily life is a very clear message to find pockets of silence during the day to escape the bombardment of all the chatter of our everyday existence. To discover the quiet in between the noise. Find, relish, and nurture it.

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