Antidote for Radio
by Fran Withrow
Even when I’m sitting in a quiet room, my brain is rarely silent. It chatters constantly, plying me with memories of the past or plans for the future. Rarely am I focused on the present moment. It’s awfully busy in my head.
Enter Thich Nhat Hanh, whose latest book, “Silence,” speaks to the noisiness of our lives. This Vietnamese peace activist and mindfulness teacher lives in the charmingly named Plum Village meditation center in France. I am a big fan of his work, so I quickly snagged my copy of his latest storehouse of wisdom.
And “Silence” does not disappoint. If you too enjoy his books, you may agree with me that this is his best endeavor yet. If you are unfamiliar with him, prepare to be enchanted by this writer whose style is simplistic but whose message is profound. And though he comes from a Buddhist tradition, his intended audience is non-denominational.
“Stop the noise in your mind in order for the wondrous sounds of life to be heard,” Thich Nhat Hanh says. Apparently I need to hear this frequently. I was constantly aware of the never-ending stream of noise in my head as I read, sometimes to the point of making it hard to concentrate. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this “Radio Non-Stop Thinking,” which makes me chuckle because it is such an apt description of the way my mind works. Turning that radio off is hard, but “Silence” offers a way to do it. Focusing on the breath is a key component, says Thich Nhat Hanh.
If you are not a yoga practitioner, you may not think about your breath very much, but Thich Nhat Hanh says mindful breathing is the means to living fully and calmly in the present moment. Breathing in and out with awareness helps us turn off that internal radio. Then we can be fully open to and engaged in the life around us.
“Silence” offers other tools for living more fully as well, such as doing one task at a time. (Texting while I am cooking dinner perhaps explains some of my more dismal meals.) Thich Nhat Hanh reminds me that doing just one thing at a time means that I am truly appreciating each moment, and when I remember to do that, I find he is right.
Silence, according to Thich Nhat Hanh, does not necessarily mean the absence of noise. Nor does it does not mean that one lives in solitude. It does mean living in awareness. “Realize that silence comes from your heart and not the absence of talk,” he says, and I resolve anew to strive for this ideal.
When I turned the last page, I was so caught up in “the power of quiet in a world full of noise” that I started right over again at the beginning. I think I will need daily reminders to help me stop ignoring all the wonders that are right in front of me. And “Silence” is the perfect book to help me do just that.
by Thich Nhat Hanh