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Life as we know it is inundated with noise.
Literal noise (phones buzzing, advertisements screaming, cars beeping) and metaphorical noise (internal chatter about things we can’t control) take us out of the present by keeping us constantly distracted.
When we’re constantly distracted, it becomes impossible to recognize how we really feel. When we’re out of touch with how we really feel, we’re forced to disconnect from the process of feeling better.
For this and other reasons, silence is golden.
When we remove ourselves from the noise, we make room for genuine experiences to emerge. We see the world more clearly and become able to truly listen to what’s happening inside ourselves and around us.
The Best 50 Minutes You Will Spend All Week
Unfortunately, “silence is on the verge of extinction.” This is according to Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist who was recently interviewed for American Public Media’s On Being.
Hempton posits that the frenetic pace and industrialization of modern life have made silence, and all the benefits it affords, a nearly non-existent phenomenon.
I cannot recommend highly enough listening to this interview. It is 50 minutes—shorter than a yoga class, trip to the mall, Mad Men episode, or Facebook-browsing session. You can do it.
If possible, listen to the whole thing in one sitting, ideally alone, with headphones, in a comfortable position, and with your eyes closed. Since you’ll be listening from your computer, quit your email and any other applications with audible alerts.
You’ll hear from Hempton these and other gems:
“Earth is a solar-powered jukebox.”
“Silence is essential to our quality of life and being able to think straight.”
“When we just let [silence] exist, it feeds our soul.”
“Quiet is quieting.”
The interview is interspersed with various nature sounds and includes an auditory hike through the Hoh Rain Forest in Washington state. It feels more like listening to a guided meditation than a news program. Enjoy.
Acupuncture Is Like Blinking Lights on a Christmas Tree
Acupuncture reinforces many of the ideas expressed in Hempton’s interview.
Literally speaking, part of the acupuncture experience is sitting or lying silently after needles have been inserted. For people who find it difficult to create silence on their own, at the very least, acupuncture is forced quiet time.
Further, acupuncture helps us actually “hear” silence, to distinguish the absence of sound from the absence of noise. The latter is what Gordon Hempton holds so sacred and what acupuncture helps us achieve.
Someone once told me that when they’re resting with acupuncture needles, they feel like a Christmas tree. One after another, the points “light up” throughout the body, awakening something new—a new physical sensation, thought, idea or perspective.
Like silence, acupuncture brings awareness to the subtle signals we’ve gotten so skilled at ignoring. But because acupuncture is a physical modality, it does this with an added boost.
Acupuncture provides tactile prompts to help guide us through the foreign terrain of quietude.
This is highly valuable today. The absence of noise has become so unfamiliar that it actually can be frightening. Acupuncture creates a framework around what for many people may be their first experience truly listening to themselves.
The ability to truly listen to silence, and make sense of the things it tells us, is empowering. It reminds us that we—not healthcare providers, the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies nor our family, friends or colleagues—are in control of our health choices.
Hempton says in the On Being interview, “Listening is our sense of security. When we are in a relatively quiet place, we can hear that all the information is in.”
In other words, we already have everything we need to be well. Health is achieved by creating space to allow this intuitive knowledge to flourish. Acupuncture can help us get there.
“When we’re truly listening,” says Hempton, “we have to anticipate that we might be truly changed by what we’ve heard.”