By Lolly Wigall
For the past nine months I have attended a weekly meditation group meeting. The group meets on Wednesday night from 6:30 until 8 pm. We share a little about what has been happening in our lives. Each person shares whatever they like. We share only what we want to. The leader of the group usually has a saying or quote from an author that we respond to in our sharing. This sounds a little like an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting, but after we share, we meditate for about 15 minutes.
There is quiet. There is no music. There is no conversation. We are left with just our own thoughts and feelings. It is a time of peace and quiet. At least there is quiet in the room. It doesn’t mean that the mind is quiet.
The group has given me some training on how to find peace and quiet in this noisy world. It has given me more awareness of just how noisy we have made our world.
Road Trips and Hobbies
Last week, my husband and I took a road trip. We planned on only driving about 100 miles a day. We planned on many interruptions so we could see some unusual museums or stores along our travels. We did have a couple of reservations for some of the nights but mostly we just wandered. We stayed in some Bed and Breakfast homes and enjoyed the great meals and interesting conversations over breakfast. One morning, I woke up early and decided to enjoy a cup of coffee in the living room. I was prepared to sit in quiet and meditate. But, then I noticed a semi-quiet tape of music playing. It was quiet in the B&B, but it definitely was not silent. I was hoping for silence and my own thoughts.
One of my hobbies is quilting. I have been sewing since I was about four years old and enjoy hand sewing and machine sewing. I use these hobbies as a relaxation mode. Technology has allowed me to find three Apps for finding quilt stores almost anywhere in the world. In our wanderings I looked up quilt stores in the area. We were able to visit some out of the way stores and find some interesting fabric and meet some interesting people. Some of the stores were out of business and no one had informed the “keepers of the App” to have the information removed. Some stores had moved, and I was able to find the new locations on the second or third App.
It was so great to be in the middle of nowhere enjoying the changing of the leaves. And, mostly, because we were in the middle of nowhere, radio stations were hard to come by. The two of us were left to ourselves to talk, laugh, and point out a beautiful tree and enjoy the quiet in the car.
One destination on the trip was Niagara Falls. Even though we have lived only eight hours away for almost thirty years, we had never planned a trip to visit this wonder of the world. We made reservations as a major hotel that overlooked the falls. One of the first things I noticed as we entered the lobby was music playing. It was sort of quiet and in the background, but nevertheless, ever present.
When we went to eat at the restaurant to enjoy the view of the falls, the music continued. It never let up. It was relentless. The only quiet we found was in our hotel room.
This part of New York State and Canada is known for their wineries. Just north of Niagara Falls is a quaint town called Niagara-on-the-Lake. There are over twenty wineries in just this little area of Canada. We decided to visit two of them. After a nice tasting, we discovered a restaurant in the winery. What a perfect time to grab a small snack. We were seated next to a beautiful sunny window overlooking the vineyard and lovely patio. Ah, there it was again. Music was playing in the background. There was no escaping it, we were going to be accompanied with the music that the restaurant owner prefers or believes will give a pleasant experience to their diners.
After a week of “no agenda” we had to head home. We planned it so we would only have about a five hour drive to reach home. We left the hotel around lunch time and hit the road. But soon,hunger won, and we stopped at a chain restaurant for a bite to eat.
The Music Never Stops
When we parked the car, and got out, I could hear music. We entered the lobby, more music but louder. We stepped into the restaurant and were greeted by the hostess. I heard louder music yet. We were hungry so decided to stay. We had never been in this chain restaurant so we didn’t know what to expect. But, the restaurant was full of families and young people watching the silent TV screens showing every football game in progress. I made the assumption that the dining rooms were quieter than the lobby and hostess area. I was wrong. The music was even louder. And, it was not quiet, soothing music. The loud, metallic music made it difficult to carry on a conversation with my husband who was seated across the table from me.
I was acutely aware that if a person wore hearing aids, they could not be in this restaurant. And, I judged the music was at least 75dB in the dining room. I didn’t think about it until later, but I could have used an App on my phone to measure the sound levels in the dining room.
I began to wonder if the workers were at risk for losing their hearing since they probably worked eight hour shifts. And, as a diner, I felt uncomfortable with the noise levels.
The Search for Peace…and Quiet
Ah, I couldn’t wait to get back in the car to some peace and quiet. What are we doing to our ears when we frequent noisy restaurants like this chain? I wondered why some of the “regulars” had not complained to management. I supposed they like the noise and do not like the quiet, meditative situations. It is not just older people who wear hearing aids. Even the latest, digital hearing aids would have struggled to give the wearer good understanding of speech in this noisy environment.
I have to realize that I am an oddball. After all, I am attending a meditation class. I am seeking some quiet to be reflective and be comfortable with my mind and feelings. I am not looking for loud, noisy places. But, as an audiologist, I am appalled by the noise that we are submitting our ears to each day in public places.