Finding Silence in the Noise

Being still when the world around us isn't.

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Photo by Kevin Rajaram

Being still when the world around us isn’t. 

It’s (relatively) easy to find some degree of calm when conditions suit. 

In remote or particularly quiet places in nature, for example, I find it virtually impossible to sustain any degree of stress if I simply give myself enough time to be there

As time reaches that point of timelessness, the sun’s warmth, a gentle breeze, and the scent of fresh foliage inevitably returns to me some semblance of peace. 

In these instances, it’s not particularly difficult to let the weight off of our shoulders that we never had to carry in the first place. 

Similarly, if you’ve lived in places like yogic communities, retreat centers, or alpine villages, you may notice that stillness (both of mind and body) tends to be more accessible.

When we’re around like-minded community, doing things that matter to us in a space that feels safe to do so, this tranquility isn’t necessarily surprising. 

This clarity, however, is available to us at all times and in all places. While it may not seem so, and god knows I struggle with this conceptual knowledge, we can learn how to be quiet in the noise. To call upon that inner wisdom in the cities, work spaces, and environments that are typically associated with the opposite. 

Run Toward the Noise 

We are a product of our surroundings.

While this idea lends merit to changing our surroundings to better suit the type of lives we wish to lead, circumstances don’t always allow us this luxury. 

What’s more is that these states of being are accessible to us anywhere, and it would prove fruitful for our wellbeing, discipline, and life as a whole if we learn to find stillness in the noise.

Resilience, self belief, and service to others are but some of the things we can realize when we practice being still in places where we’ve been conditioned to be always moving, anxious, and over stimulated. 

When I visit big cities, which has became increasingly rare as I started to follow a more introspective path, I’d the tendency to be jarred out of whatever internal solidity that I’d cultivated. 

The wails of sirens, cacophony of car horns, and thrum of millions of people going about their often fast-paced lives threw me back into the habits and ways of being that I’d thought I’d practiced my way out of: anger, frustration, over-thinking…

But it’s easy (again, relatively) to meditate on a mountain top, in a forest, or at a retreat center. If, however, we allow for it, we can carry forth that same energy into the places that so many of us have begun to run away from.

In many ways, it is our duty to do so. To carry the consciousness that we wish to see in the world out into the world where it doesn’t exist. 

If we reinforce the belief that we can’t function in the society that we are products of, then we won’t be able to. 

If a Child Can Do It…

It was a few weeks ago that I had a breakthrough with regards to this teaching.

I found myself in the back of a rickshaw in a city of 10+ million people in India. Suffice it to say that it’s not the quietest place I’ve visited. 

The presence I’d maintained throughout my morning was quickly deteriorating, and with each beep of a horn (which, if you’ve been to or heard about India, happens very frequently) my capacity for stillness was further eroded. 

Feeling particularly susceptible, I noticed a little girl squatting on the side of a busy highway, next to her ramshackle house. 

An infuriated man was was yelling straight into her face. Clouds of dust whirled around her. Motorbikes passed within inches of her face, splashing her with mud and all sorts of unpleasantries. 

In spite of this madness that I perceived to be around her, however, she sat in a way that reflected utmost peace.

Unaffected by the busy-ness around her, she was just…doing her thing. The sheer normalcy of her mannerisms snapped me back into the beauty of the moment. Into observation, instead of reaction. 

It was this little girls capacity that helped me to remember my own.

I was choosing to see the madness around me in a harsh light; each car horn was aggressive, whereas in the moment after witnessing this little goddess they became almost welcome. 

They took on the charm inherent to Indian cities that I’ve come to love each time I visit.

Finding silence in the noise is simply perspective. 

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