Whole Life Magazine

December 2012/January 2013

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Page 19 of 43

Echoes of Silence yoga&spirit Quiet time carved from a noisy life invites creative inspiration H By Jean-Philippe Veilleux ead still buzzing with the day's worries and conversations, you exit the ofice building to reach the tranquility of your car. With the city's background noise now mufled, the silence is almost complete. What do you do? Turn on the radio to occupy your mind, or embrace the silence and take some time to decompress and refocus? Turns out most of us will choose the irst option. Whether in the mall, the market, a car or our home, we spend most of our lives surrounded by recorded music, trafic sounds, voices or the buzzing of machines. Our modern lives have all but eradicated silence. This may not sound like a big deal, but what if we've lost something of value along the way? Noise Addiction Yoga.indd 20 Noise is both stressful and tiring. When adding these factors to our ever-growing to-do lists, mounting pressure at work, mortgage payments, trafic jams and all that jazz, we get what we know too well: fast, furious and frustrated lives. This is where silence comes in handy. "Sound creates waves in the brain, and depending on the frequency, it can have a positive or negative impact on us," Lichtenstein explains. "Silence has we've moved from an attitude of reverence toward silence, to worshiping at the altar of noise Many Americans are actually dependent on noise, and have the TV or music playing constantly, even in their homes. In trying to explain this phenomenon, Santa Monica hypnotherapist and psychotherapist Lisa Lichtenstein suggests that "being raised with constant auditory stimuli trains us to consider noise familiar." For example, if we compare Western civilization to Tibetan culture, in which meditation is widespread, it becomes obvious that our society focuses on the external world and is therefore not accustomed to silence and introspection. Lichtenstein sees a "correlation between people who are comfortable with silence and those who are more inclined to explore their inner selves." It wasn't always this way here in America. Benjamin Franklin lived in the pre-industrial era, a time many would have found to be disturbingly quiet. Nevertheless, this American Founding Father placed silence second on his personal list of 13 virtues, right after temperance. Yet over the past 200 years we've moved from an attitude of reverence toward silence, to worshiping at the altar of noise. What happened? L.A.area psychotherapist Nathalie Fine explains, "Silence can understandably feel frightening, especially when we spend most of our time running away or distracting ourselves from painful feelings, memories and personal problems." So, what are we really hoping to block out with our mild addiction to distraction and noise? "I don't think it's silence we are afraid of," says Fine, "but rather the fear of what we think we'll ind within ourselves in that silence. In silence we come face to face with ourselves. We stand naked and vulnerable to all that we are." 20 The Healing Sound of Nothing an effect similar to the sound waves produced by the ocean; it helps us calm down." The rhythm of the body naturally slows, giving it the relaxed state it needs to let go of stress. Overcoming stress is helpful, but there are other beneits associated with silence. Through the use of brain scans, researchers at Harvard, Yale and MIT discovered that someone regularly spending time in complete silence can modify the physical structure of his brain. While surrounded by a silent environment, higher activity was detected in the parts of the brain in charge of attention and processing sensory inputs. These studies conirm what Thoreau, Einstein, Twain and a multitude of others who have sought silence when creating and inventing have known: silence and creativity are often inseparable. Artists need the mental space that allows them to connect with their subconscious minds. Judicious silence can actually be useful in psychotherapy and yoga practice as well, for the same reason, if not the same end: to allow subconscious material to rise to the surface and "help us get in touch with what we're feeling," says Lichtenstein. If we choose to let silence in, we may be surprised at irst, but once it settles in, we can reconnect with our true nature and forget about the past and future for a moment. We may just ind the present. wholelifetimesmagazine.com 11/27/12 3:03 PM

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