Silence. Oh what sweet peace you offer my soul.
I don’t think we realize how loud our culture has become. And I don’t just mean the various electronic devices running 24/7 vying for our multi-tasking attention (although they definitely contribute). I’m more talking about the gradual increase of noise in our environment over the past few decades.
The background buzzing of electrical power lines, cellular towers, radio frequencies, the many and varied household appliances, office appliances, vehicular noise, airplanes overhead, industrial machinery, and commercial operations happening all around us. Noises I haven’t even listed, all contributing to sounds that grate away at our nervous system day and night. Sounds we are so accustomed to hearing that we’ve become consciously deaf until there’s silence. True silence.
I was completely oblivious to this until I visited Tanzania in Africa. I had no comprehension of quiet until sitting in a chair next to a campfire while looking at the stars over a field in the Serengeti. It’s a silence that immediately sets our wrought nervous system at peace. The quiet I didn’t realize my soul had been missing for thirty-four years.
The stillness is so profound one can hear a cape buffalo chewing blades of grass that isn’t even within eyesight. My American hearing, after years of California noise, had diminished compared to the Tanzanian locals. I recall my amazement when, even over the Jeep’s engine rumble, our Tracker Guide, Bilal, could hear me whisper in my husband’s ear: “Should I ask him to pull forward a bit to get a better angle?” (I had wanted a better shot with my camera.)
No sooner did I finish, he smiled and pulled up a few feet. Then he responded, “Yes, it is ok to ask. This is your holiday, not mine.”
It is no wonder that Sensory Deprivation Tank locations are popping up as a trend. These isolation flotation pods, which are used for Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST), are dark, soundproof tanks filled with warm salt water. The benefits include muscle relaxation, better sleep, as well as a decrease in pain, stress and anxiety. I believe it’s because they offer a break from our usual, noisy environment.
Recently a friend of mine was sharing about her new dog’s reaction to their home in a Highrise of a downtown city. The environmental noises are so frightening, her dog refuses to leave the house, even to potty. She cowers inside. Yet, when they’ve taken her on vacation out in the wilderness, she’s a playful and carefree dog.
For a brief period, in the very beginning of the COVID pandemic, all business and industrial operations stopped. Stories popped up everywhere about the return of wild animals to city areas and once-believed extinct animals coming out of hiding in their natural environments. The silence equated safety.
How much of our own sense of personal safety is tied to the noise of our environment? Could the remedy for anxiety be as simple as silence?
I’ve always lauded the benefits of spending time in Nature. I believe in addition to connecting with plants and animals, we could all reap the rewards of the silence Nature offers us. Here’s to protecting our open spaces, the natural environments that are so precious and yet diminishing daily. If not for the wild animals and plants, then maybe to appeal to our own humanity’s sanity.
Silence. The forgotten link to our health and wellbeing. Silence. The resource that is almost extinct.