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The Dirty Sounds of Silence

by Kino MacGregor

Have you every noticed how noisy we all are? In the last twenty years, we have invented and now need iPods, iPhones, CDs, portable DVD players, louder motorcycles, super jet engines, walkie-talkies, reality TV shows, music videos and Starbucks.

Silence is like a dirty word in the modern vocabulary. When you sit with another person there is an almost irresistible urge to speak. Sometimes you converse about important subjects and sometimes you just talk. This meaningless, friendly chit-chat about light-hearted matters is a kind of social sport. Imagine the awkwardness of a first date where you sit together without this lively banter–a boring disaster.

Modern, or shall we say post-modern, life has a soundtrack. Make a playlist for a long drive, flight or walk. Throw a party, hire a DJ. Go to a yoga class, move to spiritual tunes. At least, this is what you are conditioned to expect when you live in a world ruled by constant audio-visual plug-ins. SoHo in Manhattan is a larger-than-life-size Website advertisement for sleek, urban living. Yet there’s nothing inherently wrong with reaching for the TV, the iPod, the computer, or your own chatter to fill in the blank space of your life. Ask anyone who knows me well and they’ll happily tell you that I enjoy chit-chat, computers and my iPod. However, it’s the automatic nature with which society conditions and cultures you to expect a sensory experience in every moment that is where the danger signals fire.

What is so unbearable about the entertainment vacuum left when you turn the TV off anyway? Oh silence. There is it again. As if you thought it would finally bugger off and go away. It’s always waiting like a powerful undercurrent of your life–this immense silence underneath all the white city noise. The quiet space of your own mind will never leave you. Yet, you’re afraid because at first glance your mind is not so quiet after all the external stimuli are turned off. It’s a claustrophobic, tight and unprocessed maelstrom of leftover thoughts that haven’t been heard for a long time. Silence demands that you listen, experience and feel the undigested hunk of your own stuff. Silence demands that you pay attention to yourself. Scary stuff indeed, better run.

But, perhaps there is a way to be enjoy the soundless quiet if you learn to accept facing the inner reaches of your own mind? Practice the Mysore Style Ashtanga Yoga method and the class epitomizes the kind of deep inner world that’s only tangible in the protected sphere of silence. In the space of your own breathe, your own body, your own practice, you build a relationship with yourself that stays with you even in the deepest and most profound silences. One of the great ironies of the human race is that we spend our entire lives running from ourselves. This tragedy when seen in spiritual terms is heartbreakingly futile. You can never ultimately escape yourself. You can never really be anyone other than who you are. You can never get away from your fundamental nature forever. And yet you run.

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