THIS SERIES: THE RESTORATIVE POWER OF CREATION
We live in a noisy world: our towns and cities vibrate with the sound of traffic, aircraft, and machinery. And our homes are filled with the clamour of appliances, televisions, podcasts and iPods all demanding attention. Background sound has become such a habit that many people cannot work or drive without it, and commuters, pedestrians and cyclists are regularly seen plugged in to their chosen medium.
The constant noise takes its toll on our mental, physical and emotional health.
‘Noise pollution significantly impacts public health. Research suggests it can raise stress, affect mental health, and contribute to developing health issues such as high blood pressure.’ [Medical news Today (Dec 2020)]
‘After air pollution, noise causes the second highest pollution-related burden of disease in Europe, and is responsible for more life years lost than lead, ozone or dioxins.’ [UK Environment Agency 2023]
No wonder our souls feel cluttered and worn.
The antidote to noise has to be quiet. But so many of us are so used to background sound, that the thought of such stillness is alarming. Noise keeps us from facing ourselves, from confronting issues, and from hearing God. And so we live with over-active minds, wrung-out emotions and tired bodies—and think it’s normal.
How can we combat this? We may not be able to do much about the environmental noise—although we can avoid adding to it. But we can take steps to reduce it at home.
For some this may need to happen in small increments. If the thought of quiet is disturbing to you, then why not try some of these suggestions for 10 or 15 minute periods and increase the time as you feel more comfortable.
And then there’s creation...
LISTENING TO NATURE'S VOICE
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
The answer to our need to be still can be found out in creation, away from the bustle of community life. There we can find a quietness to refresh and restore—if we let it. Not that either coast or country are silent, they are filled with sound, but it is a different, restorative sound, a sound which is filled with worship.
And it’s been the subject of many studies. For example, researchers from the Universities of Michigan State University, Carleton University, and Colorado State University found that ‘natural sounds improve health, increase positive affect, and lower stress and annoyance’.*
So, let’s take time out this summer to engage with the hum of the natural world: the bleating of the sheep in the fields, the call of the woodland birds, or the breaking of waves on a beach. Like David, let’s allow ‘deep to call unto deep in the roar of His waterfalls; and the sound of His 'waves and breakers to wash over us’ [Psalm 42:7].
Let’s immerse ourselves in the whisper (or roar) of the wind in the trees, the rustling in the undergrowth, the humming of insects. Let’s soak it all up like a sponge, and let our souls be restored.
Not only can the quiet of the natural world sooth our restless and anxious souls, we are also told that Creation has something to say.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Steven Chase, in Nature as a Spiritual Practice (see below), describes how an Alaskan Yup’k hunter was asked what he did when moving to a new place. He answered that he spent time listening to the land. “I listen, that’s all. I listen to what the land is saying. I walk around it and strain my senses in appreciation before I myself speak a word.”
It will take practice; in the western world attending to the voice of creation is a forgotten art, but let’s take time to listen, really listen…
SeeSPIRIT-LED WITHDRAWAL: THE RHYTHM OF SOLITUDE for more on this topic.
For those who are not able to get out into the natural world, there are many videos available on You Tube recording the sound of nature.
*A synthesis of health benefits of natural sounds and their distribution in national parks | PNAS
NEXT WEEK: EARTH'S CRAMMED WITH HEAVEN
The benefits of giving our full attention...
GET IN TOUCH...
[Photo credits: Usman Yousaf (man blocking noise); Ryk Naves (bird singing); Brooke Cagle (Jesus);
Maegan Martin (story wall) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
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