Mountain Meditation
May 16, 2018

Silence, please!

By Marguerite Jill dye

One of our greatest modern day challenges is finding ways to escape chaos and noise.

The Finnish Tourist Board released “Silence, Please,” under a series of wilderness photos, each with a solitary figure. “With noise pollution the world round, finding silence is a rare thing,” VisitFinland.com states.

“No talking, but action,” British branding expert Simon Anholt proposes (lifehack.org).

Vermont and Finland have something in common: silence. Vermont might also benefit from launching a similar marketing campaign for seekers of silence in a beautiful land: “Silence reveals itself in a thousand inexpressible forms: in the quiet of dawn, in the noiseless aspiration of trees towards the sky, in the stealthy descent of night, in the silent changing of the seasons, in the falling moonlight, trickling down into the night like a rain of silence, but above all in the silence of the inward soul.” (Max Picard)

The word “noise” derives from a Latin root signifying pain or queasiness. Sound waves vibrate the bones in the ear, sending movement to snail-shaped cochlea, that convert vibration into electrical signals received by the brain. Noise activates the amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobes of the brain. But the noise causes an immediate release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which continue to be released if the noise continues. This interferes with the amygdala’s main function: to form memory and emotion.

It’s no surprise that noise decreases motivation and increases mistakes in cognitive function such as problem-solving, reading, and memory. Children living near loud air, train, and auto routes test lower in reading scores and may develop slower language and cognitive skills.

Two minutes of silence have a more relaxing effect on the brain, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation, than listening to restful music, according to “The Heart Journal.” Two hours of silence each day allow the brain to regenerate new cells in the hippocampus where memory, learning, and emotions are the functions (lifehack.org). These new cells differentiate into functioning neurons that integrate into the system, according to researcher Imke Kirste. A 2001 study showed that during periods of silence when the brain is in “default mode,” it evaluates new information and actively internalizes it. The default mode is specially used in periods of self-reflection on one’s personality and characteristics instead of on self-recognition or self-esteem, according to Joseph Moran’s 2013 report in “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.” Silence allows the mind to process profound ideas and to think creatively and imaginatively, except when it is involved in goal-oriented tasks or distracted by noise.

When I become anxious and feel stress building up, often, if I pause and listen, I become aware of a heightened sound level. Many times, the problem can be easily solved by turning it down, leaving the room, or wearing earplugs. Recognizing the stress that constant clamor creates makes it easier to remove ourselves from the noise and consciously choose how we live.

When we retreat from the turmoil and uproar to the innermost part of our being, to the sacred place where mind and heart merge, connected, in sync with our highest self, we rediscover the spark that always glows with inspired knowing. Silence and intent are the keys to quiet our busy minds and lives. In the stillness, deep within, our beautiful soul is unveiled.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The silence sings. It is musical. I remember a night when it was audible. I heard the unspeakable.”

Marguerite Jill dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Gulf Coast of Florida.

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