I just watched Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It was a really moving film. There was a moment near the middle of the film when the main character, Oskar, is bombarded by the sounds of that terrible day, Sept 11. The sounds of the normally busy city are increased exponentially with sirens, phones ringing and finally adults talking and crying. The film makers did a great job of capturing the intensity of sound for Oskar in that moment. How in the usually safe, serene and quiet bedroom, Oskar couldn’t shut out the city or the events crashing around him. We as the viewer are equally bombarded with sounds until no sounds exist, except the simple sound of Oskar scratching the floor. He was finally able to focus on just one sound, just one action, and he could hear nothing.
When I was a kid I used to pity people who would drive in their car with no radio on. I thought wow that must be so boring. I couldn’t understand why the person would want to be surrounded by silence. Now that I find that I have embraced times when driving with only the sound of the car traveling over the road is what I want to hear. Those times when life, the thoughts in my head, and sometimes the voices around me have become just too loud, that I couldn’t possibly add the noise of the radio to the symphony.
When I remember times of loudness I think not only of physical loudness I think of times when my mind was just shouting at me, or just wouldn’t shut down long enough for me to rest. How do we train ourselves to find the peace in all the noise?
A great centering prayer has helped me. I take sometime to listen to my breath, usually just a few minutes, then I allow myself to hear again the sounds around me for a few minutes. Then I again return to my breath. As I breath I chose a phrase to repeat like, “Breathing in I hear the sound of children laughing, Breathing out I hear the sound of my breath. Breathing in I hear the sound of birds, breathing out I hear my breath.” This practice helps me pick out and chose what I pay attention to in the surroundings. It helps me find myself within the noise around me.