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Time for quiet

Heading through the Sound Tube on the Tullamar...

Heading through the Sound Tube on the Tullamarine Freeway in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know how or why, but for some reason this morning I had the tv on and tuned to CBS this morning.  I caught a piece they did called “Absolute Silence:  How long can you last?

In this piece talk about very quiet places, including a spot in Washington state that supposedly is absolutely free of all human noise pollution, which not surprisingly is increasingly rare (I am sure there are still a lot of spots like this, but anyway..).  They also visit a quiet room used to get absolute noise levels of all kinds of products and devices.  In this quiet room, decibel levels can reach an incredible -9, compared to 73 in a typical airport or 52 in a quiet office.  When they interviewed the president of the company who operates the quiet chamber he said “people go nuts in here…there are people who have walked into the room, taken one step on the floor, said they were disoriented and left.”  Apparently the longest anyone has been able to sit in the room is 45 minutes, which really surprised me.  The reality is:  sitting in quiet, especially really quiet, is very hard and getting harder.

When I think about my day, I’m really amazed at how little time actually is spent in a place of quiet.  I’m not necessarily talking about noise level, as it’s impossible to find absolute silence in NYC, but I’m always amazed at how uncomfortable it is for me to be still, and quiet.  There are a constant stream of thoughts, a constant impulse to want to check my phone, check my email, listen to a podcast, listen to music..do this, do that, do this, do that.  Anything other than be still.  I do meditate now for 7 minutes (up 2 minutes every week) in the morning, but still really struggle with that.  I think the ability to be still is a skill that has to be developed, a muscle to be built.  The best way to build it is through meditation, and unplugging.  Meditation for my mind feels like eating broccoli while smelling a pizza.  I can’t help but crave the pizza while eating the broccoli.

It seems like everyday there are increasingly more ways to demand our attention, to fill the silence. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, but I do know that a moment of quiet is often the moment my best thoughts come forward.  It’s almost as if the voice inside me that has the greatest insights has the quietest voice.  It needs quiet to be heard.

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