A few days ago, I got this email from WWF about noise pollution destroying natural habitats in the Arctic. Though this particular issue is that drilling for oil creates noise that is harmful to animals, it made me think about how it’s also an increasing problem for humans.
We all know that noise is bad for us- loud rock concerts, screaming children, a particularly loud brass player in the next practice room-whatever. Blaring advertisements and overstimulation are part of our everyday life. But there’s a far more innocuous type of noise that’s just as negative- background noise. It’s something that we all think we tune out, but it still takes a toll on our bodies. According to this article from Women’s Health, excessive noise doesn’t allow our bodies time to recover, so they produce negative stress hormones, causing weakened immune systems, excessive nervousness, and even heart disease. Small noises even affect your concentration. What I found interesting to read about wasn’t just the obvious idea that noise is negative, but that the reason why we tolerate it is out of a sort of unwillingness to be introspective: we are too afraid of our own thoughts, so we drown them out. This article even suggestions mindful meditation to get used to hearing your own thoughts so that silence is no longer frightening.
This is a thought that really rang true for me. I remember a time when I used to blast really loud music so I couldn’t hear my thoughts, and in fact I still do it sometimes. When I’m at the gym, I pump my music up loud so I can’t hear myself getting tired (I really do have a lot of terrible gym habits that I am not proud of…). It wasn’t until I really started to engage in yoga and meditation that I began to appreciate quiet. I can understand that meditation really is difficult at first, though- and it doesn’t get easier overnight. It’s also hard for us with our Western way of thinking to believe that it’s productive to sit and literally do nothing even for 20 minutes. It really is, though- if you can channel your thoughts and learn to tune out the noise- not just audible noise, but also unimportant thoughts, pains, and pollution from the media- your mind will become much sharper and more efficient. You can train your mind to do anything, with enough time- to feel physical pain less, to react differently to negativity, to focus on one task to get it done. If you can train yourself to enjoy listening to your mind, I guarantee that you will feel better for it. It sounds cheesy, but you really will get to know yourself better and that’s an integral part of the journey towards finding peace. It’s worth struggling through 10 or 20 minutes of spending time with only your mind for company, no distractions. Perhaps a mantra will help you as well.
Anyway, I know that this isn’t quite in the spirit of Fat Tuesday celebrations, but I’m sure that tomorrow everyone will appreciate a bit of quiet ;) Namaste!