Honk, honk… tring, tring… beep, beep… For city dwellers, cacophony is a tiresome background to everyday existence—the screeching of tyres, the yelling drivers, the loud horns, the stressful whispers that do the rounds of professional corridors, the beep of reminders and notifications, the hours wasted on social media.
City life drains us of energy, sucks out the joy of living. Yet, somewhere deep inside is a dream of a blissful, peaceful life, away from this noise and cut-throat pace – we just need to find it.
Not everyone is lucky enough to move into the country. So what can we do to shut out the noise, literal and figurative? Philosophers and healers have been saying for ages that we should look within. And now scientific research endorses the healing power of silence.
“Quieting the mind can boost brain growth, according to a 2013 animal study in mice”, as per an article on Psychcentral.com. “Researchers found that when mice were exposed to two hours of silence each day, they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the brain region that’s linked to our memory, emotions, and ability to learn.”
So, the challenge lies in how to heal the body, mind and soul. And there are solutions at hand.
Environment activists and scientists have cited the healing of trees and Nature. The city seems to be all brick and mortar, but it contains parks with their lush foliage and ancient trees, the perfect setting for healers.
“Forest Therapy is a gentle and immersive mindful walk inspired by the Japanese form of nature therapy a.k.a Shinrin Yoku,” says Noida-based Dipika Sharma holds regular Forest Bathing walks at Lodhi Garden, Delhi. “We connect with all our five senses when walking silently in Nature, observing and connecting to our roots.”
The walk begins with a meditation session which is meant to awaken the inner self, helping the five senses come alive. Other guided activities are a leisurely 20-minute slow walk, enjoying the sounds of Nature, observing the environs and thereby bringing out your inner healing power. This is best done barefoot, as it puts you in direct touch with Mother Earth.
After that is Zhan Zhuang meditation, which is standing Qi Gong meditation, along with creating mandalas. Martial arts practitioners do this standing meditation for hours to build up energy. Sharma invites people to hug trees, and bring along sketchbooks so that they can enjoy a spontaneous creative experience. She also encourages people to write gratitude affirmations and letters to Mother Earth.
The two-hour morning walks end with freshly brewed herbal tea, brownies, and a reading from Nature cards.
Harkback to the Buddha
Vipassana, the ancient Buddhist meditation technique, means to see things as they really are, and perceive them in their real nature. This was taught more than 2,500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills. In 1976, the late SN Goenka brought it to India from Myanmar.
For most, this is a difficult form of meditation. It does not involve any visualization or guidance. The basic principle is that your breath is the healer, the mentor, the guide and the key to bliss. Our entire life is in this ‘prana’ or life force, we just need to become aware of it.
The healing power of silence can be found in the meditation halls of Delhi’s Lotus Temple, monasteries and quiet churches. Here you can find solace for a few minutes or an hour. The advantage that the 10-day Vipassana course gives you is to prepare you to find that healing power of silence anytime, anywhere.
There are Vipassana centres all over the world and the one in Sohna is the closest to Delhi-NCR. For 10 days, you say goodbye to phones, people and noises, live amid Nature, wake up before dawn, dress in loose clothes, live in a small room, and just focus on your breath. Meals are simple and short, afternoons are restful.
You sit amid a crowd in a meditation hall, where even the fans are soundless, and you focus on your breath alone. After the first day, the humans around you no longer seem to be a part of your stay there.
To each her own
Gurugram-based clinical psychologist Dr Poonam Poonia, who works at the W Pratiksha Hospital, says, “Each person is different and each person finds calm in a different way. Some enjoy reading books, sitting in the park, walking amid Nature.”
Words can heal, but words need not be spoken. Even the written word read in silence has the power to heal. The healing power of books has been termed as bibliotherapy; it dates to 300 BC.
The ancient Greeks put inscriptions on libraries, calling them ‘Healing for the soul’. Greek philosopher Aristotle cited that reading fiction was a way of treating illness. And to quote William Shakespeare, ‘Come, and take choice of all my library/And so beguile thy sorrow…’
A prolific writer and author of Loveflakes, Vibha Malhotra, says, “Reading helps break away the negative thoughts. It is a good habit that opens a new universe for you. It helps you revisit decisions and find alternatives. You don’t always find good literature but you might find respite in a book.”
Despite her hectic schedule, this Noida-based software engineer wakes up early and writes for two hours in the morning before zipping off to her office.
From sound to stillness
In the dark, fragrance-filled hall of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Noida, Deepti Lalwani and Aman hold healing sessions. The rhythmic sound of Tibetan bowls, gongs and other instruments washes over the silent participants as they lie on their mattresses. This large, quiet space has been the location of many healing workshops over the weekends.
“Silence is the gap between the two thoughts. Stillness is the state that allows us to enjoy the silence,” says Lalwani, co-founder of Soul Setu Wellness Foundation. “The instruments help in changing the brain waves through the law of entrainment or resonance. When we get to the awareness of the root cause, the healing is done.”
Lalwani is a certified Sound Healing Trainer and internationally certified Gong Trainer. She explains, “For those who can’t immediately go into silence, the gentle sounds of Tibetan gongs and bowls help in settling the clutter of thoughts. The vibrations aid in finding stillness that leads to the root cause and its healing.”
The more you train your brain to find silence, the more it will be trained to be silent. But how much silence is good for you? A state of mind which helps you relax and rejuvenate is good silence. For monks, who turn towards the spiritual path, this is self-actualization. While most of us are
probably not on that path, we can still practice 10 minutes of silence daily for peace and well-being.
Power of zero
Renowned Odissi and Bharatnatyam exponent Dr Sonal Mansingh performs a dance-drama titled Shoonya to convey the power of silence, “that compelling stillness which can heal our fractured attention and shattered nerves.”
She elaborates: “For performing artist such as I am there can be no greater creative space, no greater blissful state than to be in a state of Being, calm and still, a state of shoonya from which all creation springs and melts again. This shoonya is the void, not vacuum. This void gives birth to creation which dissolves back into the void in a perennial cycle. The dance of creation begins and ends only to begin again. This beautiful cosmic principle is embodied within us but we need to heed its existence, to lend it an ear, to turn gaze inwards.”
Tips to reach that calm space
* Conscious breathing practices.
* Learn the art of taking a pause. One minute of pause every hour from whatever we are engaged in doing.
* Listen to harmonious music
* Share your thoughts and feelings with your best friend.
* Make physical activity like walking in a park, yoga, pranayama, a part of life. Watch the sunrise, hear the birds chirp.
* Read positive books.