Monthly Archives: September 2014

Sound and Noise

Sound, a form of energy like electricity and light, is relevant to our lives. Noise, defined as unwanted sound, is irrelevant. I found myself reflecting on the distinctions between sound and noise, and their effects on us, following a recent social gathering of friends.

BowlsOur hostess has a lovely room in her home dedicated to healing using singing bowls and, this particular evening, she invited us to participate in a singing bowl ceremony. We eagerly accepted this spontaneous invitation! It was powerful and bonding as, one by one, we each lay on a massage table, encouraged to relax in order to receive the pure resonating tones of the bowls and the gentle, rhythmic chanting of everyone’s voice. Those sounds permeated every cell, allowing luxurious relaxation. Each “healing” lasted for less than 10 minutes, but the effects were deep and moving.

What a gift! How often do we allow ourselves the time to totally relax our minds and bodies and grant our auditory system the opportunity to be flooded with calming and pleasing sounds? It was a rare gift of a lovely respite from the unnatural and discordant noises that constantly bombard our environment.

We’re conditioned to expect incessant music on elevators and while “on hold” for a business call.noise2 We take for granted the “music” in restaurants which, rather than providing a calming background for dining, competes with the personal connection of conversation. We have become numb to constant environmental noise: television, electronic noise, airplane noise, leaf blowers, construction sites, dogs barking, the washing machine and on and on. All the while believing we are successfully “tuning out” the din as we go about our daily lives.

“The idea that people get used to noise is a myth,” the Environmental Protection Agency has reported. “Even when we think we have become accustomed to noise, biological changes still take place inside us.”

Sadly, we’re so used to the “noises” of the world around us, we’ve forgotten how to listen to our own inner voice and the inner rhythms of our body. Noise clutter, like any other clutter, creates stress, consciously or not.

In the July–August 2002 issue of the Archives of Environmental Health, a team of government and university researchers concluded that exposure to noise “acts as a stressor—activating physiological mechanisms that over time can produce adverse health effects. Although all the effects and mechanisms are not elucidated, noise may elevate systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate, thus producing both acute and chronic health effects.” 

Begin to consciously notice the “noise” in your environment. You’ll be surprised at how much is there that you are tuning out.  Clear away as much as you have control over. Stay in the quiet for as long as you can and observe your body’s response. Similar to the response to an empty space after clearing away clutter, there may be a brief period of disorientation and, perhaps, a subtle stress in response to the “emptiness.”  But that emptiness allows our bodies and minds—as well as our spaces—to readjust to a new level of calm.

“When I say I love the silence, I’m not being entirely truthful. What I actually love are the abundant, delicate sounds that amplify when I’m silent. These curious creaks, mutters, and hums compel my imagination.” – Richelle E. Goodrich

Gradually reset the sound in your immediate environment by listening to beautiful music, the sounds of nature, ringing a small bell or playing a singing bowl. The effects are calming to our mind, body and spirit. It’s a beautiful gift, like the one our friend gave us that recent evening. And it’s a gift we can give ourselves over and over. quartz

“Like color, every SOUND is composed of many different frequencies and can be used to clear, balance and refresh the field in which you found yourself, or on which you are working.”                 Elaine Seiler