Maren Schmidt: Noise


Blaise Pascal, the 17th century philosopher and mathematician, wrote "All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone."

Almost 300 years later and human misery still stems from not being able to listen to oneself think. A recent edition of Ode magazine was dedicated to the topic of silence. Several journalists detailed their journey into being alone and quiet. One writer found being in a sensory deprivation unit not quiet at all, but disturbingly noisy, as he listened to his heartbeat, his pulse beat in his ears, and paid attention to his breathing. What each traveler into the quiet world found is that there is no silence.

Noise surrounds us.

Sitting quietly with our thoughts and listening to our inner being is unsettling at first. How easy it is to distract ourselves. Turn on the television, the computer and the video game. Pick up the phone, or our music devices. Open the refrigerator door hunting for something because we feel hungry, not for food, but for the quiet.

Paying attention to our inner sensations of feeling, hearing, seeing and thinking takes focus and concentration. Sitting quietly alone is the key to discovering where and who we are in the universe. It's much easier to party than to sit and open the package.

What a gift we have, though, when we can sit, as Pascal suggests, alone in a room and not feel lonely.

Our world today is filled with more distractions than in Pascal's time, distractions that help us avoid direct confrontation of who we are. We let "noise" distract us from our dreams, our desires, and ultimately our lives, because we fear hearing our breath, our heartbeat and the blood rush through our ears.

Only in the quiet can we listen to that voice that coaches us to be the person we were meant to be. If only there wasn't so much noise.

Today, take five minutes to listen to your breathing and to your heartbeat. Listen to your dreams. Tomorrow, listen for another five minutes. Listen every day until you are quiet for 20 minutes a day.

"Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb," Pythagoras recommended more than 2,500 years ago.

Sit comfortably in a room alone and your children, and others around you, will be affected by the concentric waves of peace and quiet that you create.

In today's world our children are at risk for never having the opportunity to learn to sit quietly. Movement is crucial to child development, but being still and quiet is also of vital importance. Without a sense of direction, movement is misdirected. Without movement, inspiration is never fulfilled.

What are those things that keep our children from having quiet time? Take a few minutes and make a list of all those activities that prevent quiet from being in your family's life. Television. Radio. Computers. Personal music devices. Cell phones. Video games. Over scheduling.

Don't let the noise of life prevent your children from having the opportunity to listen to themselves, and discover who they are.

Next Week: Children Love Quiet

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