In todays busy world with so much demand for your attention, it can often feel like you just don’t have any space in your life for peace and quiet. The world can be a noisy place and although it’s great to be able to retreat from the world, to have space and silence in whatever shape and form that might take for you, it’s important to recognise that you don’t actually have to run away anywhere. Silence is always available. It’s just a matter of changing your perception, or more correctly, changing the focus of your attention and your understanding of what true silence entails.
Now don’t get me wrong, I truly advocate that everyday you should retreat from the world and not only find a quiet spot for at least fifteen to thirty minutes a day but if possible, you want to connect with nature outside whenever you can. Of course, how much time you have varies from each individual but this is a positive habit to get into.
Yet what happens for the rest of the day when you’re in busy or noisy environments whether at work, home or even during leisure time. Many a time we can become aggravated and stressed by unwanted noises such as car alarms, dog’s barking, workman’s tools, people inconveniently talking while you’re trying to concentrate on something. There are many things in this world that can seem to taunt us and even torture us mentally like they shouldn’t be happening and when we resist life like this we can react in unhealthy ways with stress, anger and outbursts of frustration. But what if I was to tell you that these were just conditioned behaviours that we have learnt unconsciously. That you can live life in a way that is not perturbed by any outside influences and reach a stage in your life where instead of resisting the world, you welcome it.
There are times in your life (lets use a classic example such as a library) that if someone is being really noisy when it’s not appropriate you are able to act in a number of ways within that environment to deal with the situation. You could either report it to the librarian for example or you would be within your rights to mindfully ask the person to be quiet.
But what if you are in a situation where you have no control and you are unable to act, or your actions have been fruitless or you are unable to leave the area where you are. In these situations we have to accept them or we will suffer internally and this is where true inner silence can become a very powerful tool in such scenarios.
In truth, you are awareness, a conscious presence and this awareness goes by many names. The wording doesn’t matter but what does matter is the quality of our presence in life. No matter the situation, no matter what is going on externally in the world outside yourself you can be in a state of complete awareness where all thoughts that enter your mind, and all emotions that arise within your body can simply be noticed without you acting upon them or believing in them.
By witnessing these comings and goings of the mind and emotions and not allowing your alert attention to be drawn into any internal drama, as you stay as the pure awareness that you are, beyond any thoughts, judgements or beliefs the mind eventually begins to settle and in this settling process, like the surface of a lake beginning to settle after a raging storm. It is from this place of inner silence, your natural way of being, that external events that once were seen to be disturbances will no longer trouble you any longer. In a sense, you are trouble for the ego mind, for it no longer holds your fixated attention, it no longer is the master of the house.
If you are ever in a noisy environment, as the thought arises within you that this is a noise that needs to stop, or a noise that shouldn’t be happening in the now, simply allow those thoughts to arise and also any emotions that accompany these beliefs. From this place of alert attention, from a true inner stillness you will discover that without clinging on to any labels or judgements in the mind the noise becomes neither bad nor good. It is simply what it is and you will find that it no longer upsets you or distresses you in any way.
The more you enable this process, this letting go and surrendering to what is, whilst action can at times be possible, you can also make it a practice to sit in the noisy environment and simply observe from a place of pure awareness. With this in mind you will discover something quite unique and come to understand that you have always had this sense of silence within your grasp. You will come to remember the peace that always was no matter the curcumstances of your environment even in times when all actions are made void and the only place left is in surrender, for there is no where left to hide.
In a local pond where I live there is a handful of ducks. They sit bobbing up and down on the water going about there own business preening themselves, feeding and just swimming around. Eventually they come out of the water and settle down, especially if the sun is out and bathe in the heat of the summers day, some of them sleeping restfully. There is a beautiful silence about the whole affair. Then suddenly a loud car will drive past by the road nearby, blaring out music for maybe half a minute till it is able to turn off the main road to a side street and off it goes yet the ducks didn’t move. They just remained sitting, silently basking.
Suddenly one duck is awoken from it’s deep sleep as a family of four walk past. The two adults walks hand in hand talking loudly and laughing whilst the children run up and down the path near the ducks screaming joyfully chasing each other around. All the duck does is watches for a moment, not a sound, not even a quack and then it wiggles it body a little. Yet even with this noise the duck peacefully begins to nod off back to sleep once more. The family move on eventually and the ducks continue to bask in the sun.
So the next time there is a noise that the mind finds irritating, maybe before action or surrender, you just look, notice what the mind labels as some sort of disturbance to your peace and just wait awhile while basking in your own presence, just as the duck basks restfully in the sun.
You don’t need silence to find silence. You do not need to run to the mountains to find it, or take time out at a retreat, or find a quiet space even those these places are beautiful, you just need to realise that if you simply stop and observe from a place of mindful awareness just for a moment then a greater silence shall be remembered, a deep inner silence that is your natural place of being, untouched by the drama of the world.
That is true silence, you were just always looking in the wrong places.