Many people I know enjoy the continual companionship of sound.
Whether it is the sound of their favorite music CD, a television program, a pet barking (or, as the case may be, meowing or chirping), a roommate, or other sound source, sound is a near-constant, welcome presence for many.
But not for me. I crave quiet.
I crave quiet the way my bird, Pearl, craves shiny things. To me, silence is its own form of sound, reverberating with stillness, presence, meaning, guidance, and companionship.
When I cannot experience silence daily, and often enough during each day, I start to wear down little by little. My energy is sapped with each little interruption of sound interjecting itself into my required daily allotment of silence. Correspondingly, once I am able to return to a state of stillness and silence again, I can feel the experience replenishing the well of energy, stamina, and serenity within me once more.
It is probably important to distinguish here that not all types of sound are equally draining to me. For instance, the sound of Pearl chirping is rarely an irritant, nor is any sound I am personally generating by choice, such as a music CD I decide to listen to or a television program I choose to watch. But sound that is generated over which I have no control, such as a neighbor’s loud conversation, a delivery truck’s beeping, a nearby construction site, or the indiscriminate tolling of church bells – these sounds translate in my mind as “noise”.
So part of the reason I crave quiet revolves around an issue of control, and that aspect I am continually working on so that I can improve my tolerance for the noises of others around me. Just as I cannot expect to control all elements in my life (I can always control how I react, but I simply cannot expect to control what I am reacting to), in the same way I cannot subject myself to a continual state of personal misery that only abates when silence once more prevails.
As one of my treasured mentors, Byron Katie, teaches, I must instead look at where the real source of the noise is, which requires me to notice what my ears are tuning in to.
What I mean by this is, I have lots of options for what I focus on with each of my senses. I can listen within, or without. I can listen to the noise/sounds of others, or to the stillness that remains continuous and pervasive beneath the sounds. I can listen to the irritating sound source, or to a soothing sound source I generate to mask it. I can listen to the angry, condemning thoughts against sound-producing others that my mind generates in support of my need for silence, or to thoughts that will actually support me to make peace with others’ need for sound-companionship.
The other reason I crave quiet revolves in part around my nature as an introvert, and in equal measure around my desire to enjoy sound. As an introvert, I fill up through my alone-times. Since I equate silence with keeping company with myself, silence is a Pavlovian response mechanism that signals to me that it is okay to relax and begin to rest and recharge. But as a person who also needs and enjoys companionship, I enjoy my encounters with family, friends, and others so much more when I am coming out of a silent place into their presence, and retreating once more back into silence after the interaction concludes.
These reasons I do not try to fight or work on, per se, since I recognize that they are an outward expression of not only my genetic makeup, but also my personal preferences. If asked to choose between silence and sound, I would choose silence about 10 times out of 10. There is nothing amiss in preferring silence, even as there is nothing amiss in preferring sound. It takes all kinds, which includes me.
Today’s Takeaway: Are you more of a “sound” person or a “silence” person – or a bit of both? When we begin to understand our preferences, what recharges us most effectively, and what we need to accept versus what we need to work on in ourselves, we can take our cravings for one, the other, or both in stride, and do a much better job of meeting our own needs even while remaining tolerant and accepting in the face of the (sometimes conflicting) needs of those around us.
Mountain lake photo available from Shutterstock