Why is it that we must always surround ourselves with noise? Whether it be music or television, it seems we are never truly comfortable unless we have noise around us. Are you one of those people who instinctively turn on the television (or music) as soon as you get home, not because there is a particular program you want to watch, but just out of habit so there’s some noise in the house? I don’t know many people who know how to enjoy and appreciate the silence – except perhaps parents with noisy kids and librarians.
There’s a Chinese saying that my parents used to quote whenever we complained about being too hot: when your heart is at peace, you will find coolness. It’s not an exact quote – that’s just a literal translation. Basically, all it means is that when you stop running around, being busy and stressed and noisy, you will find peace and stop being hot and bothered. And to find peace, sometimes you need to have silence.
In November 2010, I went to Vietnam with a couple of friends for a holiday. It was a wonderful experience for many reasons but one thing that absolutely stands out for me is the traffic and the noise that is part and parcel of that! Well before my trip, I had already been warned of the traffic and how to cross the road in the city. Dodging the millions of scooters, cars and people is an art form. I never thought it could get noisier than Ho Chi Minh City until we got to Hanoi. After three weeks in the country, I was so happy to be home where traffic is not nearly as crazy (although I have to admit, it was organised chaos) and where I could just sit in peace and quiet. I did not turn on the television or any music for the rest of the evening after I arrived home. The silence was sheer beauty!
So, in this busy holiday season, when your heart is full of cheer and goodwill towards mankind (assuming you haven’t beaten up the old lady next to you with your purse in the Boxing Day sales), I would highly recommend you take some time to sit back, relax with a cup of tea or hot chocolate, tune out all the external noise and just listen – to the sounds of birds chirping outside your window, to the rustling of the leaves, or in my case, to the sound of the filter in the fish tank. Recharge your batteries and get ready to face the busy-ness again!