In fact, a 2011 World Health Organization report called noise pollution the “modern plague”, concluding that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.”
We are constantly bombarded by sound – whether it’s traffic noise and emergency sirens or music, television and radio (exacerbated at times by the use of headphones). Many of us long for periods of quiet in our hectic day! And, research indicates that we need periods of silence, because it contributes to many aspects of our overall well-being.
The outcome of a period of golden silence, when taking a break from clamouring distractions, is pleasantly surprising! The Bible tells of the wisdom of the “still small voice” of God and of people being rescued from dire circumstances when they heard it – something hard to do amid the cacophony of today’s noisy world!
Some people find silence, and the renewal it brings, by incorporating forms of meditation, mindfulness or prayer into their day. This can range from a few seconds (waiting for a red light), to formal time set aside each day, to special, longer retreats.
Yet, the connection between silence and health was made centuries ago when Jesus shared with his followers the importance of creating that quiet space by “entering into [your] closet.” Like many others, I understand this to be a figure of speech– he was not suggesting a physical space. He was counseling us to create a closet around our thinking that shuts out the “noise pollution.”
Noise pollution in Biblical days, you ask? Well maybe in the marketplace and around the animal herds!
But the noise he wanted us to shut out was really the jumble of our human thoughts and opinions – especially the fear that our heavenly Father is nowhere near and is, thus, unable to help with the challenges we face. When, in fact, we are never outside of His love and care – regardless of the clamour of thoughts that try to make us feel otherwise! It only requires that closet of silence – shutting the door on fears and concerns – to listen to the “still small voice” that is always present to help.
Jesus promised that this quiet communion with our Father would reap rewards: “when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:6)
This “closet of prayer” brought healing to my friend, Marilyn. One day, a disagreement with a co-worker made the office atmosphere and her daily tasks so unpleasant that by the end of the day she had a severe headache.
Marilyn regularly turned to her Bible and prayer to find solutions and healing whenever she experienced mental or physical problems. In this case, she says, she prayed to better understand that both she and her co-worker were the expression of one divine Creator, the source of good and only good. And in this unity of good, only harmony could be the outcome.
This prayer brought her a sense of peace; and as she became more silent and listened, she heard, as if it were a “still small voice”, that she had to apologize to her co-worker because she had been the one at fault. The headache immediately disappeared – a great “reward!” The next day, after the apology, a happy and productive atmosphere returned to the workplace.
Well-known 19th century author and poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was perhaps inspired by the Bible reference to a closet of prayer – making the connection between spiritual stillness, silencing human thinking to listen for the Divine, and health – when he penned this poem:
“Let us then labor for an inward stillness,—
An inward stillness and an inward healing;
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks in us, and we wait
In singleness of heart, that we may know
His will, and in the silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will and do that only.”
As I am a community blogger for Metroland Media, this article is published throughout Ontario in editions such as YorkRegion.com.