Silence v Sound.
It may seem counter-intuitive for someone working with sound to place an importance on silence. However, for us, silence is fundamental to creating the vibrations from which we benefit. Sound can`t exist without a void to fill.
It may be the excruciatingly exquisite silence of anticipation before the first sound, just before the first ring of the tingsha bells. It may be a break in the vibrations when the sound of a bowl has faded into nothingness and just before a new vibration wells up to fill the space. It may be the final silence, the Sunyata, when chaos settles into a new form and the Universe can be reborn in the void.
There are various meanings placed on silence. The lack of audible sound, non-existence, the silence-within through meditation, even danger in the natural world. Sometimes we crave silence in our busy worlds and that is where we can feel frustrated because there is never total silence in our environment. So do we make judgement calls on what is good sound and what is bad sound? I think we do, as most people love the sound of nature in birdsong and most people dislike the sound of traffic near a busy road. However, we should honour all sound as part our Universe, be it urban or rural in nature – accept it all as part our life experience.
We do learn to filter out certain sounds. In our physical bodies, our brains would be overloaded with data if we didn`t, so we listen for those sounds that matter. The rustle as a predator approaches, the alarm clock in the morning, the voice of someone we love in a busy room. The silence in a sound meditation or gong bath is powerful because we are filtering out all those other extraneous sounds that fill the environment and we listen for those that are created for the soundscape.
Somewhere behind the filtered sounds of the city, behind the filtered sounds of the weather and behind the filtered sounds of our own breathing is the basic sound of the Universe. This is sometimes what we hear in the final Sunyata.
It`s a wonderful irony that at The Chiron we are creating soundscapes in a space which has been a library for 130 years. A space with a wonderful quietness that comes from a succession of librarians putting a finger to their lips and saying “Shhhhh”.
John and June Shapter, Healing Sound Practitioners and founders of The Chiron Institute UK