Cedric Johnson, Ph.D and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D
Whether we know it or not we need silence in our lives. It is essential for so many things; for example, generating creative thought, reducing stress, restoring our sense of well-being, and maintaining our sanity in a noisy world….
However since there are so few places on earth where complete silence is available we have to create such opportunities. Moreover, when we find them we need to avoid contaminating them with noise (the 24-hour news cycle, loud music, jet skis, leaf blowers!).
About a week ago, we visited a Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico, far up the side of a mountain. This is the final resting place for the annual migration of 150 million Monarch butterflies starting in eastern Canada and ending here, in south central Mexico. For several months, great masses of butterflies occupy this almost sacred forest, leaving visitors breathless with wonder.
Most of the time people observe this amazing phenomena in complete silence. However, on this occasion, there were a group of North Americans sitting on the grass next to us talking very loudly on a topic that seemed so out of sync with this context. One person complained,
“In my lifetime we will never see another US Congress with a majority of its members from the Democratic Party!”
We thought to ourselves:
“In this wonderful sanctuary with millions of butterflies swirling around us right now, who cares about your political opinion? Can’t you just be silent and fully in the moment?”
Having to listen to such chatter when the occasion warranted complete silence led us to reflect on the destructive power of noise.
In life, as in music, when there are no spaces between the notes, all we have is noise. The racket in our world (and in our heads!) is destroying our experience of sacred and necessary places, places where the only sounds are the sounds made by Nature. It is over stressing us and keeping us from deeper thought and conversation.
How can we create conditions where we can slow down the noise inside our heads and outside in our environment so that we can be quiet? How can we make this a regular part of our lives?