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Seeking Silence

Photo by Faye Cornish

While I sat at one side of the human “sandwich” enclosing my hysterical 4-1/2 year old son, in a dual attempt with my husband to be supportive while he screeched and flailed his way through a tantrum, the shrill tone was clearly not a sound bath.  It felt like every effort I had made to bring myself to a more peaceful state – after several weeks of my son’s consecutive colds, the flu, an ear infection, and even a mysterious microbial bacterial lung infection (thank you, Pre-Kindergarten) – unraveled and melted away with every shriek.  My husband was initiating a psychological test he had thought of to see if we could get him to calm down, so neither of us were allowed to move until my son became 100% calm.  But in the midst of this, I was losing all sense of sanity I had going for me.

As tears welled up in my eyes, I suddenly remembered I could focus inward, as I do often when I cry, and realized that if there was any good time to apply the meditation skills I’d been dabbling in for several years on and off, there could be no better time to test its efficacy than now.  I closed my eyes and tried to remember a mantra to repeat, but couldn’t recall anything specific.  I’m not good with other languages….after living in Miami for 14 years, and spending 12 of them with a Cuban, you’d think I could speak a little Spanish by now, but I’m pretty bad at it.  So Hindu mantras don’t stand much of a chance either. 

One thing I do know how to do is breathe….thank goodness!  I took several slow, calm, deep breaths before my mind started to wander.  Although following the thoughts in your head is not the goal of meditation, I realized that they were an achievement over allowing my son’s pterodactyl screams to deafen me, while I was sure my heart was about to implode.  Suddenly my thoughts became my meditation, what began to save me, and what I thought of put me into a deep contemplation.  I plugged my ears to tone out some of the pitch, and began to wonder whether being deaf is really  such a terrible handicap in this world.  I’m sure there are many deaf people that would claim they miss out on a lot of communication, music, as well as face other challenges, and I’m sure that’s true.  

But from an effort to find peace in my life, especially through practicing meditation, I began to wonder if losing the ability to hear could be a benefit, at least temporarily.  I know some meditation practices take on several days of not speaking, which in some way might help to reduce the chatter of the mind, but what about the chatter of the world?  If I could just silence the world, I think I could easily silence my mind, and more quickly attain a sense of peace.  I doubt this would be doable from loss of any of the other four senses: sight, smell, taste, or touch.  No, just hearing….true, pure silence.

About an hour after my son finally calmed down, I was perusing my email, and came across an article sent by Conde Nast Traveler.  A man named Gordon Hempton has been documenting places that offer “one square inch of silence”.  He found a few spots across the US…the guidelines entail there being no air traffic, or any other noise for at least 15 minutes.  It seems that Gordon has allowed forest creatures in his “silent places”, just not man.

There are some days when I hear a male and female cardinal chattering outside my window, and I welcome them joyfully to stop by our bird feeder.  Other times during the winter months in Florida, a giant flock of “snowbirds” never fails to land on the electrical wires on the streets around my home, and their chirping peppy choir for hours is enough to make me consider shooting off a few fireworks.  I know everyone’s levels of patience varies…but I’m still trying to find my one square inch of quiet…even if for only 15 minutes every now and then.

How and where do you find peace and quiet?

If you’d like to try 3 minutes of meditating in “silence” (there is soft music playing in the background), try following this meditation.