The rest of the mind

The attic of Robert Frost's farm was cool, dark and soothingly quiet. Derry, New Hampshire, September 2012

The attic of Robert Frost’s farm was cool, dark and soothingly quiet.
Derry, New Hampshire, September 2012

“True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.”William Penn

I can’t remember anyone ever describing me as a quiet person, but even so, I am continually amazed at how noisy the world is becoming.  Jeff and I can hardly stand to go to restaurants at the busiest times of the day, because the music and din of many conversations get so loud.  At the movie theater, it feels as if the sound is up at too high a volume.  Most radio stations seem to be one jangly commercial after another, sending us to public radio for relief, and I completely avoid watching television.

At a time in history when most of us are overwhelmed by too much stimulation and too many things to think about, I would expect everyone to seek and crave quiet places.  Yet everywhere we go, it only gets louder.  Now even the computer occasionally stages surprise attacks, with noisy pop-up ads at full volume, even when the pop-up blocker is on.

Recently when Matt was in the hospital, I went out to the garage to get some things from the car while Jeff was in the room with Matt.  On impulse, I just sat in the car for a few minutes with the doors and windows closed, enjoying the quiet and privacy I had been missing for more than a week.  It was quite therapeutic, a balm after the stress of the hospital setting.

I’ve known people who say that too much quiet is just as disturbing to them as too much noise, but I’m not one of those people.  I love to be home with total calm, where I can hear the sounds of birds, rain or the mail truck even when the windows are closed.  Oddly, I have a bad habit of talking too loudly myself (especially when I’m excited or angry), but I think silence is golden.

How about you?  Do you like to take breaks from noise, or even from pleasant sounds such as music, to have a few minutes (or hours) of total quiet?  Next time you are feeling stressed out or fed up, try to find a place where you can escape to silence and rest your mind.

One year ago today:

The incubator of the spirit

This post was first published seven years ago on May 31. The date was swapped to allow shifting the Memorial Day post (which fell on May 26 that year) to Memorial Day this year. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Throughout much of my life, I recall how odd it was to go to the homes of my elderly relatives where there was never a radio or television adding background noise in the household. At their homes, there was just silence except when we were talking. In warmer weather, their windows were always open and you could hear the outdoor sounds of birds, cars and even distant trains. Mostly I remember the silence inside their homes. It actually felt odd and a bit uncomfortable.

    Today I have to chuckle because my husband and I have evolved into being those elderly folks who love that type of silence. It gives us peacefulness and it keeps extraneous clutter from our minds. When we go to our adult children’s homes with the televisions always on, it feels like sensory overload. We don’t even have music playing when we’re in the car anymore. We’ve turned into the quiet elderly relatives and we love it!

    • Judy, I must be a true oddball because I’ve always lived as that quiet elderly person! I have never, ever liked the sound of background television, so full of commercials and other forms of inferior content. It might be partly because my own parents never left a television playing and they rarely watched it during my youth; they were always busy with other things. They did, however, play music, and I too kept that habit (even in the days of 8-track tapes I would make my own mix tapes, and my vinyl was very well loved). I don’t remember to do that much anymore, but when I do, I enjoy it. Living in almost total silence after Jeff died, sometimes not hearing anyone’s voice for days, was quite hard to get used to, but turning on the television didn’t help. I found I hated it even more than I ever had. Ersatz conversation did not feed me in any way. When I read your description of your older relatives’ homes, it made me remember Jeff’s mothers home, filled with the ticking and chiming of the several clocks she had. I used to love to sit in her living room and just enjoy that sound while I read through the books she always had on hand. The sound of a clock ticking is very contemplative, almost like a heartbeat.

  2. Elena

    I love silence so much that I sometimes believe I don’t like music. I mean, I do like music (I even love some heavy metal songs and I am teaching myself guitar) but I don’t just like whatever song or piece and I don’t always enjoy music; this means, for instance, that I don’t listen to the radio because there are too many songs I don’t enjoy and I rarely listen to my own cds…
    I remember that years ago my brother and I were listening to a cd we loved and when the music stopped we both sighed with relief! 😁
    Music engages our brain, even when we don’t actively listen, and I experienced that it can be tiring, especially when it adds to the general over-stimulation of our senses (e.g. in shops).
    There are times when I wish I lived in the forest or “far from everything” because of silence (because of noise?).
    And many years ago, I was slightly disappointed when I watched a fantasy cartoon where the heroes had to fight against the dark lord of silence or something similar. Of course in the mind of the author silence was connected to death but to me silence is connected to rest, relax, refreshment after a busy time and silence makes the best condition for thinking or any mind-engaging activity.
    When I received my new cell phone, one of the first things I did was deactivating all the system sounds, such as those of the keyboard 😂

    • Elena, thank you for sharing these thoughts! They echo mine almost exactly. I am very, very picky about what I listen to. This applies to works and music as well. And different types of music have very different effects on the brain. I love 70’s and 80’s rock, and a few more recent songs as well, but I listen to them when I exercise and need energy. I could never, ever listen to them at bedtime and expect to rest! As a small child, I could not sleep if the radio or stereo was on, even with soft melodies. My brother used to complain about how I was keeping everyone else in the family from being able to go to sleep to soft music. But like you, I think silence, or white, pink or brown noise or other such “background” sound, is far more conducive to rest. Isn’t that funny about the “dark lord of silence” in the cartoon? I think it shows that we really do fear silence sometimes, to the point that we might chatter away from sheer anxiety, much to the annoyance of our companions! Thanks again for these interesting thoughts. I do the same thing with my cell phone, BTW! 😀

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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