Raghunandan Sharma, a friend of mine has just returned from the Kumbh mela in Haridwar. He enjoyed the experience like millions do every year, but was upset about one thing, the festive spirit of the mela. Jubuliant crowds, mikes, lights, decoration, the works. “It looked as if the entire town was decked up for a wedding,” he rued. “The peace that you expect on such a religious occasions was totally missing.”
Well, if you don’t get peace in the foothills of the Himalayas, where else do you?
I wondered whether others also felt like Raghu, because we are all getting so desensitised to noise and distraction that lack of silence no longer surprises us.
Just take in your surrounding noise for a moment…Mobiles sounding off, traffic noise, construction sounds, white noise of electronic appliances, the chatter of radios and TVs at home, clanging of keyboards at office.
Study after study has shown the health problems related to surrounding noise levels…elevated hear rate, high blood pressure, surge in stress hormone levels, fatigue and irritability. Children exposed to noise have poorer learning skills, and teenagers walking around with iPods and MP3s are at risk of having their hearing ability impaired.
But what I personally worry about is the inner noise within us that has risen due to this constant outer noise and distraction (calls, smses, mails and social networking), depriving us of inner silence, which we so badly need and yet don’t realise. Being deprived of silence and stillness means losing touch with our inner being, our true self.
Yet we seem to be doing so little about it. Since 15 years, April 25 has been observed as International Noise Awareness Day, but I wonder how many people even know about it.
Well, I don’t know how we can reduce the noise levels. Not running cars and trains, shutting off the gadgets and generally cutting oneself off is certainly not practical.
What we can perhaps do is squeeze out some silence out of the constant distraction, by increasing our “silence quotient” to counter the outer and inner noise. We can’t all retreat to a Himalayan ashram or escape to spas, but we can surely nourish silence through meditation, or by taking frequent trips natural surrounding. In Stillness Speaks, Eckhart Tolle gives some wonderful instructions. One of them is to observe a plant or power, how totally they are immersed in being. The other advice he gives is to be aware of the silence behind the noise…
But the trouble is, as some psychologists have pointed out that we might have already become so used to noise that silence may actually frighten us. What about the television or the radio that chatters in the background or keeps us company?
'Be still,' Jesus said, 'and know that I am God.' And many seers and philosophers in the East have gone a step further: ‘Be still and know that you are God…’
For being still and silent is to be one with the source of our being.