The Search Begins…
People have always searched for quiet places: timeless spaces, comfortable silences, safe retreats. Quiet places offer calmness and a sense of harmony with the world around us.
Evidence suggests that women should seek quiet places when they want to conceive a child, connect with their baby, labour, or give birth. This is because the all-important hormone for childbearing, Oxytocin, is released when we feel at peace. Bonding with and breastfeeding a baby work best in this place of softness.
If you are pregnant or a mother, then chances are that you look for quiet places in order to gather your energy for growing and raising your offspring. Such tranquil spaces provide respite from the vagaries of modern life.
We can look for quiet places in gardens, temples, churches, wine bottles, foreign countries, homes, cafes, sofas, cushions, baths, or books. We can do aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, massage, gardening, yoga, tai chi. We can meditate. We can rest. We can cuddle, have sex, hang out with our kids, spend time alone. We can have a crack at much more than I can list here.
One could observe that different ways of finding quiet places work for different people. This suggests that creating particular sets of circumstances is not a guaranteed recipe for quietness.
It is thought rather than situation which is vital to our sense of quietness. While we try to get quiet in different ways, our minds become quiet in the same way: by reducing the speed and volume of our thinking. No matter how we contrive to arrive at a place of peace, it is quietness on the inside, which promotes feelings of calm and wellbeing.
How Thought Works…
Let’s say that the stream of thought which runs through your head is like a real stream. Your consciousness is like a lake into which it feeds and from which the stream flows onwards.
Imagine that the stream feeding the lake flows at varying rates, depending on weather conditions. There is always water arriving in the lake, whether it is a gushing torrent or a steady drip. The stream leaving the lake allows only so much water to pass at once. Therefore, the rate at which water comes into the lake sometimes exceeds the rate at which it can exit.
When the stream entering the lake flows at its ideal rate, water goes in and out without the water level going up or down. When the incoming stream flows too fast for too long, the lake water rises up the bank, until the lake floods.
Fluctuations in the water level of the lake happen all the time to some degree, and small changes in the stream’s velocity and volume are not problematic. Flooding occurs when the water entering the lake overwhelms the capacity of both the lake and the exit channel over an extended period.
Flooding is temporary, because at some point the incoming stream always comes back to its ideal rate of flow. When this happens there is time for the excess water to drain away, returning the lake to normal proportions.
In this way, your consciousness is like a hollow into which your thoughts enter and exit. Your thoughts have an ideal rate of flow, at which your consciousness is at its best level. Your rate of thinking increases and decreases with your moods, which come and go in their own rhythm, like weather, putting more or less pressure on the capacity of your consciousness.
A positive mood has a lightness to it, which makes thoughts seem more ethereal and less serious. In this state, thought meanders into and out of your consciousness with ease. Conversely, the weight of a negative mood makes itself felt by increasing the speed and volume of your thoughts. This means that they look more real and imposing.
Your level of consciousness rises and falls all the time without major problems, as small shifts in thought rate do not affect its boundaries too much. However, when your consciousness is overwhelmed with thought, it floods. When this happens you must wait for it to clear in order to return to equilibrium. The only thing that allows this to happen is a decrease in the rate of thinking. In this sense, it is inaction rather than action which helps you to return to an ideal state, because action tends to increase the rate of thought.
My personal favourite way of getting quiet is soaking in a warm bath. I have built up many positive associations with bathing in the past, so it is easy to assume that the bath is vital. However, I can just as easily have the happy disposition I find soaking in the tub in other circumstances. It is the way my thoughts are flowing which makes the difference.
I particular, I usually focus on the present moment when I am wallowing in bubbles, and this is most effective in reducing the volume of my thoughts and improving their quality. If I choose to accept that the past is finished and the future has yet to happen, it does not make sense to harbour resentments or fears. By focussing only on the present, and downshifting a gear or two in the physical sense, my thoughts cease to race and those which overfilled my consciousness with their urgency and importance drain away.
The Simple Truth of Quiet Places
While creating certain circumstances may seem essential in the search for a quiet place, it is really an internal location which we can access in many ways. It is by embracing the present, slowing down our thinking, and doing less that we can arrive in this tranquil space. By observing the texture of our thoughts, we can notice if we are moving too fast, running too hard. When we are flooded with concern and ill feeling, it is a sign to do as little as possible. We should merely focus on the moment and allow our consciousness to clear.
This simple understanding can reassure us that our quiet place is always there waiting for us to inhabit it.
How do you like to get quiet? What helps you to slow down your thinking?