My ears are shutting, my brain is full!
It is 9pm and since my children got up at 7am I have been listening, first to them, then students, clients, friends, then my kids again. I love my work, my kids, my friends, my students and my clients but about two hours ago my head was full. I was actually walking along the road with my lovely son who was telling me about his day and I was really glad that he wanted to, but there was another part of my brain that wished my ears had inbuilt shutters, that I could just will close, without him knowing, so I could still nod and smile, just without the words.
As a coach, I am a paid to listen; I rarely half hear. My brain is trained to hear not to just what is being said, but to how it is being said too, what lies beneath the words, remaining unsaid, but speaking loudly. My peripheral hearing is also very sharp as my students find when they are talking about something other than Asch’s line experiment.
Listening takes my attention into the world of the person who is speaking, connecting with their perspective and experience, to what is important for them, how they feel and what they think and do. It is an honour to be so trusted.
But then I get full. Full of other people’s words, I can feel the moment when my ears want to fold in on themselves. It happens fast when I am in shopping centres and towns, so many stimuli, simultaneously demanding my attention. My kids know my window for tolerance on shopping is very small.
I can’t watch TV at night, it’s just more input, more jostle for the limited attention I have left, I can’t bare it and so don’t watch it. Nor do I like the radio in the evening, even the dogs fidgeting are jarring when my brain just wants to rest.
What’s going on?
I’ve no idea really. I am an introvert; I get my energy by being alone, I can’t think straight when there is noise, so I think that is part of it.
I also think I have lot of the traits of a highly sensitive person (HSP), getting overwhelmed by sensory stimuli. Research shows that ‘greater HSP scores were associated with stronger activations of brain regions involved in awareness, integration of sensory information, empathy, and preparation for action in response to emotionally evocative social stimuli’ so literally, my brain is affected by even subtle stimuli.
The turn within
They may be the biological reasons why I get full of noise, but the effect of quiet is more mystical, sensual and internal than the scientific literature conveys.
Interestingly the word ‘noise’ finds its roots in Latin where it’s original meaning was ‘sickness’ . In antithesis, ‘silence comes from the Latin word meaning ‘quiet’ or ‘still’. This makes so much sense to me, too much noise makes me feel stressed, crabby and tired. Silence stills me.
Tonight I stole an hour down by the river. I took a book but I didn’t read it, more words even though they were silent, instead I listened. I heard the river lap, the birds sing, the pop and splash of unseen fishes. At last, the connection I needed with the natural world, it’s seasonal turning, welcoming May home, watching the sun gild the water. No rush and bustle, the river meandering, the swallows swooping elegantly. I noticed the willow saplings budding, found violets in the mud, smelt the damp earth cooling into evening.
As my heart stilled and my amygdala calmed, I was able to let my awareness rest in my own body. I noticed my chest rising and falling, felt the air against my cheeks, noticed where there was tightness and where there was ease. I could rest in myself, observing the passing thoughts, feelings and sensations as I noticed the water boatmen scooting in the shallows.
When I step away from connecting, taking time away from other people’s needs, for a while leaving behind me tasks and goals, I find myself stepping into the moment.
Herman Melville said , “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.” and for me this is true. It is only in this quiet that I find my wisdom, my creativity, my own truth and trust. I am able to listen to what I need, what I want and what needs expressing in me and for me.
There is no music without the silence between the notes and for me, there is no listening without silence, there is can be no connection without solitude. Silence is where I find myself, come home to myself and let my body and my brain rest, finding renewal, relaxation and peace.
I recommend it to you.
P.S. If you'd like some inspiration to help you take time for yourself follow the link to get a free download of the opening chapters of my book Love Being Me.