I knew how important it was for me growing up to develop familiarity with silence. I spent hours and hours in nature, in silence, listening outwardly and inwardly, or imitating sounds. I grew to appreciate space, physically and mentally, as I practiced stilling my thoughts completely. I found that if I stopped thinking completely, the animals around me didn’t notice me. I figured at the time that I had turned invisible to them. Now I realize that I was temporarily dissolving my ego by suspending myself in what mystics call the Present Moment.
I see too often how adults and children feel compelled to fill all available space with sound, movement, or images. The ego’s need for more, more, more excitement, stimulus, action, and entertainment keeps one from experiencing a simple, natural depth in life. The relentless reaching for sensory stimulation wears on the body and erodes connection inside to our spiritual source of being. My metaphysics teacher often encouraged students to “periodically stop thinking.” When the incessant urge to think is harnessed, there can be emotional peace and physical relaxation. Thinking is meant to be an occasional tool for learning and evaluating, not a continual river of mental sound.
I want my daughters Alexandra and Vivi to appreciate silence, quiet, and space. The best ways for them to develop appreciation for these states is to practice them and see the benefits of the results. Breathing exercises are an easy way to practice at first. When the girls are winding down for bedtime, we will often practice taking five deep breaths, holding for a long count, and then exhaling slowly. The simple act of bringing attention to breathing has a profound effect on the mind. It at once brings your attention to the present moment; it occupies your thinking completely, and very often stops the thinking process altogether.
When my oldest daughter was little, I spent a while teaching Alexandra how to walk silently and sneak up on someone or on an animal. She practiced and practiced and found that one of the secrets is to clear her own mind. It is not just a technical practice, it is a mental practice in controlling thoughts and the generation of thinking.
In addition to listening to night sounds and stars, my youngest daughter Vivi and I practiced listening to angels, to her guide, to her Inner Self, to animals, to bugs, to plants, stars, and to the wind. Anything, any time, is good for listening. With both girls, I could see the stillness that came into their minds when we listened together. It took patience on my part to just sit with them for long periods of time without talking. I had to develop as much value for sitting quietly as for talking and teaching out loud. I can see the effects of extensive listening practice in Alexandra and the blossoming of Vivi’s patience.
I found that I had to genuinely believe in the importance of listening for them to follow my attention. When I was just trying to get them to be quiet and to focus their attention on something, it worked a little, but not for long. When I thought there was something valuable to listen to, and when I knew the time was perfect for them to practice listening stillness, they followed easily. Alexandra and I listened to several thunderstorms arrive. The long, successive, slow approach of wind, thunder, lightning, and rain were great foundations for her learning patience, observation skills, listening and concentration.
Self Respect and the Near Sound
A wonderful concept that kids need to learn early is that the nearest sound dominates. That means that whatever sound is going on right next to them is the one that they will hear the loudest, and any distant, faint sounds will be much harder to hear. The way I demonstrate this is to have them turn on the faucet at a sink while I step a few yards away and talk softly. They can’t hear a thing I say until they turn off the faucet. Because the sink faucet is the closest sound, it dominates all other sounds.
The near sound effect is important in teaching the value of quieting thoughts down. When we allow a mental chatter to continue in our minds, we exclude the quieter, softer sound of our inner guidance, our Highest Self, our voice within. When this is coupled with placing value and importance on tuning into inner wisdom and guidance, a child will start to understand that they have the power to turn off Near Sound of that "inner sink faucet" and be able to hear the softer sound of their guidance inside. Developing a curiosity for what their guidance may be saying to them will certainly help anyone navigate this world.