By Sanah Thakur
When was the last time the world around you was quiet? So quiet, that the thoughts inside your head rung with clarity. The loud cacophony of everyday noises distracts us from desiring peace through silence – we now seek it via music, exercise, movies, dancing or conversing; each with a ring of its own. And it is this lack of calm still silence that provides no order to the disordered brain, which spends hours during the day interpreting hundreds of experiences, thoughts and feelings.
With each day comes a whole new set of frustrations that set off multiple alarms, forcing us to react with our feelings. We react, react and react, with no real solution to the problem, which in turn leads to further frustration. And how exactly are we supposed to find a solution when the one tool we are equipped with, is avoided on a daily basis. Thoughts are the way the brain makes sense of the world. An electrical transmission between neurons sends signals across the brain to highlight the message needed to be delivered, about the outside world. However, our feelings come first. A feeling creates a demand that something unexpected is happening and the brain therefore needs to deal with this problem by thinking. Feelings demand the mind to WORK. Unfortunately, in the world today, there’s no time to oversee the efficiency of the brain’s work ethic, because we’re so caught up in our feelings.
Through instant media we can be connected to almost anyone in the world to share our mutual experiences of feelings with, thereby multiplying the number of feelings felt. For example, imagine your colleague at work upsets you with a comment about your proposal to the team. Currently you are feeling criticised and humiliated, until you get a call from your best friend and you share the story with an underlying feeling of frustration. In less than one hour, you’ve found no solution to your feeling and you have already jumped ship to experience another feeling. Instead of dealing with the comment and what it made you feel, it’s easier to project your feelings on the existence of your colleague. This means that anything she says or does from that day, will be filtered by your negative feelings that weren’t given a chance to be thought about.
If this is an experience you find yourself in multiple times, you can join me on a new path to give my brain the silence it deserves. While the roller-coaster rides of feelings are extremely fun, they can get tiring and redundant; perhaps why the process of meditation (the exact opposite of a piñata of feelings) is healing and not exhausting. If you just imagined a person in yoga apparel, closing their eyes and sitting cross legged with their hands resting on their knees and their fingers curled into the “very good” emoji, you’ve got the wrong idea. Meditation is the process of training our minds to be silent, so that awareness can be focused on thinking and finding solutions without being rocked emotionally. Candles, music and yoga mats might be more enticing, but the real goal in meditation is to bring about silence in our surroundings.
So how exactly can you practice creating a still world around you? Before I make a few suggestions, you might or might not take, let me clarify one thing. While silence can be physically created in a space by closing doors, turning off machinery and isolating oneself, it’s the mental silence I am aiming to explore. To train our minds, it will be necessary, especially in a world like ours, to create tangible silence so it allows for a natural slowing down in the brain. However, one mustn’t get carried away with the act of meditation and physical silence, as the real objective of awareness won’t be achieved. To create an opportunity for honest clarity and encourage thinking as opposed to constant hopscotch with our feelings, here are a few habits to instill:
1. If an experience makes you feel multiple feelings, open up Parrot’s (2001) list of primary, secondary and tertiary emotions and identify exactly, your feelings at that moment. Once completed, trace them to their emotions (biological changes) and see how your feelings (mental perceptions) react to each emotional change.
2- Before sharing an experience with someone else, isolate yourself from outside opinions and objectively breakdown the experience. It might help to write or draw this out.
3. Focus on finding a solution to the problem created by the feeling rather than reacting to the feeling.
4. Remember, no one is responsible for anyone else’s feelings. This means that while blaming and acting out on others might be easier and more pleasing, you will find no true solution for yourself. Focus instead on understanding that the circumstance or situation created a feeling within you and if it isn’t a feeling you enjoy, it is completely your responsibility to find a solution for it.
To properly engage in these habits, it will be essential that we take ourselves seriously and give our minds the silence they deserve. Switching off your phone, closing your laptop, avoiding music and entertainment and truly sitting still with your mind will be extremely challenging, yet you find your mind to be more meditative and engage in thinking, which you usually avoid. So just remember, the more you avoid “silence”, the less you are really thinking.
*The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah
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