How much have we desensitised to nerve-abrasive and heart-jolting, synthetic noises? The pinging, revving, blaring, drilling, ringing and rumbling, of electronics, cars, power tools, horns, frenetic TV and incessant input of jarring voices. And whilst we are filtering these noises, are we still absorbing them?
A 2011 World Health Organization report called noise pollution a “modern plague,” concluding that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.”
It turns out that noise pollution has been found to lead to high blood pressure and heart attacks, as well as impairing hearing and overall health. Loud noises raise stress levels by activating the brain’s primitive amygdala and causing the release of the stress hormone cortisol, according to research.
So if we are seemingly desensitised and able to ignore them, why are they still making us stressed?
Its simple. When we find ourselves in stressful or traumatising situations, the body has three stages of response. 1. To look for social support 2. Fight or flight and 3. The last resort to a relentless stressful encounter we cant escape from is resort to the most reptilian part of our brain and shut down. We disconnect from our bodies so that even though our cortisol levels are through the roof, we don't feel it. We are stressed but it feels normal. This, however, doesn't protect us from the illnesses that are related to that stress.
Its a kind of hypernormalisation, the noises are damaging to us but we accept them as normal because we cant hear anything else. If we were mindful and present then we would want the synthetic noises to stop. If we were present then we would understand what the noises are doing to our bodies and we would want to get away from them. So we escape instead to our autonomous thoughts which are always in the past or the future, never in the now. As seemingly effective as this is, it means your life is passing you by because, in real time, you are never not in the now.
This is why it is so important to meditate. When I teach people to meditate, usually outside in nature, often with animals.
One of the reasons that I use animals, apart from their soothing nature, is because they are great barometers for how low we are on the thinking scale. The more present we are, the less emotive thoughts we have and the more serene we are. The more serene we are, the more animals relax and choose to be around us.
My aim is to reconnect people with nature; the vastness that we are still part of while being lost within concrete walls and cities.
One of the many hooks I use to keep my clients focused on the present moment is sound. As we sit next to a river, or in a wild flower meadow, with horses chewing nearby, we focus on wind, birds, water and insects. As the sounds come into focus, what becomes apparent is how abundant they are, and how we usually fail to notice them as we go about our day, lost within the confines of our heads.
The sounds bring us into connection with nature, our true essence, the present moment and all the beauty that is available to us. Sometimes this stillness is interrupted by a lawn mower, a car or a leaf blower and my clients are always surprised at how abrasive these synthetic noises are. This is because in mediation, in soothing our minds, we tune into our intuition and our intuition tells us what our bodies need. When we don't listen to our bodies, we invite illness, pathology and sadness.
So if you cant hush the din of your day to day soundtrack, then take time out. Meditate, find solace in silence or in a park so that you can be present with birdsong. Find peace in your heart, a natural sound, a shower for your mind.