Give me a quiet place

March 3, 2014 — 2 Comments

A few weeks ago D and I ventured out to the suburbs to watch a friend in junior high stage version of Aladdin. Walking back to the car in the dark, after the play, D said, “Mommy, it’s so quiet!”

She was right. It was quiet and we could see the stars in the dark night sky. We walked slowly to the car, taking it all in.

It made me realize how much we take the quiet for granted. There’s so much noise pollution around us. We live in the middle of a large city. We are never free from the din of it — the cars rumbling down our street, sirens rushing toward the nearby hospital, the noise of our upstairs neighbor as she gets ready for work in the morning, the other neighbor’s dog barking. And then there’s the buzzing of cell phones, the noise from the TV….how often do we ever experience perfect silence?

I long for it.

I’m an introvert. I need space and quiet and time to think, read, write, regroup and recharge, and these days I’m not getting much of it. I think I’m going crazy.

Recently, I told David I needed a reprieve. Time alone. He agreed and I found cheap tickets to visit a friend in Arizona. There, not only I could spend quality one-on-one time with my friend, but also have some time at a nearby Franciscan retreat center where I could read, write, and think.

The moment I stepped foot into the retreat center, my soul heaved a sign of relief. Finally. Peace! Quiet! Calm!

I walked the stone-lined labyrinth, sat outside and felt the sun on my face, wandered through the retreat grounds where I found many  icons, as well dessert rabbits, birds, and dessert hens.

All of the thoughts that had been jumbled in my head came to the surface, and started sorting through them….getting ideas for new books, contemplating my career, better understanding my role in my marriage and friendships.

Quiet_place

As I walked I stumbled upon a small meditation chapel. As I entered, I saw this sign above the door: “Give me a quiet place.”

Ah, yes! A quiet place. I walked into the cool, dim stucco structure and as I entered, it was so quiet. So calm and peaceful. THIS is what I had been longing for. QUIET. Perfect silence. No car noises, no sirens, not even the sound of wind in the trees. Just perfect silence.

I felt peaceful, calm…like my soul, mind and body could finally rest. I almost laid down on the benches and took a nap.

I don’t think we realize how much noise is in the background of our lives. Maybe sometimes we like having it there, to help us avoid thinking or feeling. But in the meantime we’re not really living.

I recently read an article that was a response to Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In.” The author of the article argued that we don’t need to “lean in,” we need to “recline.” We need time and space and quiet. She writes, “In 1929, Virginia Woolf issued a cri de coeur: How can women become poets and writers, she asked in her now-classic essay, A Room of One’s Own, when they have no money, no independence, no privacy and no space?” A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” declared Woolf.

The author went on to say, “If we want to do more than just go through the motions, both love and work require a protected space in which creativity can flourish. Today, most women can make money on their own and acquire rooms of their own — but they still get too little psychic space and too little time for the kind of unstructured, creative thinking so critical to any kind of success.”

Give me a quiet place.

I’m committed to finding those quiet places in this city. Not sure where they are….but my sanity and soul depend on it.

Karen

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2 responses to Give me a quiet place

  1. Hi, Karen,
    You must not realize that your sanity also depends on sound and that the sound-rich environment of the city helps to keep you mentally active. Sound deprivation causes mental and physical illness. The French otolaryngologist Alfred Tomatis cured a monastery full of ill monks by exposing them to gentle high-frequency sound delivered through headphones and getting them to resume their frequent daily chanting. The monastic life attracts people with audio deficiencies that literally make them crazy, as Randy De Trinis illustrates in his online memoir of Thomas Merton, the famed monk and RC mystic. The ability to “shut out sound” willfully is a matter of having a flexible right middle ear stapedius muscle, which can be strengthened by listening to music with headphones. You might even try writing to ambient classical music to mask the irritating sounds. However, even those sirens can have a salutary effect on the speed at which the two halves of your brain integrate, which is optimal for creative writing. Peace is lovely when it comes as a change and a rest, but you can have too much of a good thing. — Laurna

  2. Wow, Laurna…I didn’t know that. Fascinating! I agree that too much silence isn’t good — I would probably go crazy if I stayed in that meditation chapel for too long. I guess finding the right balance is the key….

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