The Silence is Deafening

by Bobby Rock

Whenever I repeat the age-old mantra, There is nothing more important than your health, I’m usually referring to the importance of a sound diet and exercise program. But actually, I believe the mind is our most important asset because, among many other things, it is the engine that keeps you on track with your diet and exercise! Let the mind soften—to constantly give in to distraction or the lure of immediate gratification—and watch body and spirit follow suit as we disintegrate into a shadow of our potential selves. It’s a daily struggle, and I’m constantly on the lookout for various lifestyle practices and distinctions that might keep the mind vital and sharp.
Which leads me to today’s stream-of-consciousness rant…

+ + + + + + +

Just last spring I took a weekend sabbatical near Santa Ynez, CA. I stayed at an Airbnb farmhouse that sat remotely atop a grassy hill, framed in gravelly stone walkways and jaggedy cactus. The nearest neighbor was down the hill about five football fields away, so there were really no humans to be seen unless you went into town. And yet the beautiful population of inhabitants around this place was a treat to observe all weekend, including: rabbits and lizards, frolicking about the backyard all day; blue jays and other birds dropping by to hang in commune; a big-ass tarantula passing through in the grass near the lap pool; and a slithering king snake, making his way across the back patio. Majestic, one and all. 

The backyard view...

And to simply say it was quiet around there would not do it justice. Outdoors, you could hear a bit of wind rustling through the endless rows of rosemary, and a sparse chorus of bird and insect calls… but not much else. Indoors, it was eerily devoid of any kind of sound, except for the occasional low drone cycling of a refrigerator hum. You could only hear the ringing in your ears. And that’s when it hit me... not only how deafeningly quiet it was there, but how noisy it tends to be in everyday life. 

It was then I began to ponder how all of that daily, minute-to-minute “data”—that raw information of sound—might encumber our minds and affect our ability to optimally contemplate, reason, and create. On the one hand, I’m sure us city-dwellers have normalized a mental filtering process and are probably no longer even aware of when the fridge cycles or a car drives by. We are too busy noticing the helicopters, racing engines, and the occasional gunshot. (Especially in LA!)  But on the other hand, I think it’s worth evaluating how our mind/body wellness might be compromised without regular reprieves into those stretches of silent space. 

All I can tell you is, this bombardment of silence over an entire weekend was quantifiable. I felt like I was thinking more expansively about things. And I hadn’t crashed so deeply—and for so long at one time—in quite awhile. It seemed as though my mind was better prepared to fall out, let go, and slide into those enviably deep delta waves of restful sleep.

Bring on the delta waves!

Which brings us to this week’s contemplative question: How often are you in a space so utterly quiet that you can only hear your ears ring? 

For me, it is indeed rare. About the only place I can regularly experience this kind of quiet is in an iso-booth-turned-meditation-chamber I have in my practice room space. But still, it’s not the same. It’s kind of like putting in earplugs. I am artificially disconnecting from the chaotic metropolis that surrounds me, as opposed to actually being in a space that is legitimately rooted in the gentle quiet of pure nature. It’s a different experience, energetically.

And maybe that’s the bigger point I’m trying to unpack here: how often do we submerge ourselves in an environment that is truly primal, with minimal connection to the bustling norm of city life?

In fairness, I feel like I’ve always been pretty mindful about “stopping to smell the roses” in any situation where I can engage a bit of primal wonder… if only for a few minutes. I am generally aware of those jaw-dropping pockets of beauty and nature in my life and travels. But I guess this trip had me longing for a living environment where that was more the rule than the occasional exception.

Could this be an age thing? Or is it the inevitable fall-out from thirty-six years of living in one of the world’s largest cities?

As always… thanks for listening.

PS. Here's a running vid from the weekend, just so you can get a vibe of the area. Extraordinarily great running conditions!