Giving Thanks # 2 – Serenity

Sunset along the north shore of Lake Superior at Stoney Point.

Whilst I love the world I inhabit I often find that it’s just too damned noisy. If it’s not the phone in my pocket, with its loud beep-beep constantly reminding me that Facebook, Twitter and other wonderfully important must-see-right-now updates, it’s the other stuff that slowly seeps into my head and erodes my sense of well-being.

There’s loud and noisy stuff everywhere. Phones, computers, games machines, cars whose occupants seem to believe the only way to get anywhere is to as fast as possible at all costs, TV’s with their pointless reality shows (Big Brother – gah, what complete garbage) that serve no purpose other than to try to sell you shit with their jazzy twinkly adverts.

And then we come to the working week. I love my day job and I love the ever-changing interaction with my colleagues. But I’d be lying if I wasn’t happy to slide into my car at the end of the day and relish the silence.

It’s like bathing my mind in a soothing cloud of nothing.

Little story about serenity

The day I returned to work after my zombie illness over Christmas, I managed 3 hours before I realised I shouldn’t have left my bed. I drifted through a bunch of chores in my office, heard my colleagues talking to me, but wasn’t able to really listen as my brain and body were still coming to terms with almost becoming a zombie.

Things ached and a hacking cough made me want to puke. I was told to go home and I was glad to leave. The walk to my car seemed to take forever and by the time I was slumped behind the wheel I wanted nothing more but to be transported directly to my bed.

Aware I shouldn’t have driven at all, I forced myself to concentrate and get home safely. With the heating at full blast, shoving wonderful hot air in my face, I switched on the radio and put my new CD in the slot.

This was Radio 1’s Live Lounge 2014 compilation album and I’d been looking forward to listening to it since Christmas Day. After a quick glance at the cover I chose a track at random and started my journey home.

Just to clarify, the purpose of the Live Lounge at Radio 1 is for artists to perform their own song as well as a cover by another artist. This is done in a stripped down, raw, acoustic fashion, and for me it’s a wonderful way to experience good music.

The first track I listened to was Indiana’s cover of Mr Probs summer hit Waves. After a few seconds I pulled into a lay-by, turned off the engine and just listened.

Whether you’ve never heard the track, or don’t even know who Indiana or Mr Probs are, I urge you to close your eyes, relax and listen to the track from YouTube below.

I didn’t have the volume up very high, enough to feel the music as is washed around me. For that brief moment a bubble of serenity surrounded my car.

I was calm and relaxed, even my breathing was a little easier. Indiana’s voice didn’t seem to come from the speakers, rather inside my head. The rawness of her tone accompanied by the music was on par with the silence of midnight.

The next track was Haim’s cover of Beyoncé’s XO. Equally soothing.

Again, relax, close your eyes and just listen.

I know, the nasty beeping crap at the start and end tends to ruin the mood. Thankfully that’s not on the album.

For the first time in two weeks I felt at ease.

Funny thing is if I hadn’t dragged myself out of bed and suffered through a first hours of work I wouldn’t have experienced that stunning feeling. It was like being wrapped in silence yet with music filling my head at the same time. It was both there and not there. I was inside the music first and inside my car second.

It’s hard to explain I know.

For me, serenity doesn’t always mean silence or peace. It means a perfect moment where things feel right, regardless whether my senses are receiving audio and visual stimuli.

I don’t doubt that the combination of virus, antibiotics, painkillers and aching body heightened that experience of peace and calm. Nevertheless it was indeed a perfect moment.

Moments of serenity

For me at least those moments of pure peace are few and far between. Some achieve them through meditation, which is admirable because though I’ve tried this I can’t seem to quite reach that state others claim to.

So it was surprising to find another moment only the next day. Still suffering, I was sat on the sofa at 4am, wishing my cough would give me some respite, if only for a few minutes. My body ached, every joint, every muscle, every tiny fibre of my being seemed intent on tormenting me.

All I could do was sit still with my head propped on a cushion and concentrate on my breathing. Usually I’m all too happy to share the sofa with the dogs, but when I’m ill I just want to be left alone.

Too tired to resist I first let little Ben hop up beside me. He curled up without fuss and promptly fell asleep. A few moments later Tilly slipped up in her usual ninja-like fashion. Once settled she nudged my hand and I extended my arm to flop on top of her.

Tilly has a tendency to keep pushing for attention – nudging and pawing until you tickle or stroke her. This time she was content to feel my arm across her.

I guess I dozed for a while and when I awoke some time later I heard one sound, well, two in fact – both dogs gently snoring. I looked down at them, watching their chests slowly rise and fall. Then I looked at the other sofa, the empty one, and the expanse of living room floor.

It could be argued that dogs will seek out a warm, comfy place to fall asleep, and that they also like company. This is true. Yet both our dogs also like their own space and will often snooze curled up at the bottom of the stairs or stretched out across the carpet.

They remained on the sofa, either side of me, all night.

I choose to believe they wanted to be with me because I needed that comfort, like they could sense I would benefit from their presence. That, dear blog reader, was an emotional moment for me because I felt closer to Ben and Tilly than I ever had done before. They were there for me, a subtle display of loyalty and friendship.

Listening to their breathing was every bit as peaceful as the music in my car.


No robes for me, thanks

So there you have it, two stories of what it’s like when the volume of the world is turned down enough to experience a moment of serenity.

An interesting side-effect of being struck by my zombie illness is a change in my attitude toward life, nothing huge you understand, just a tiny adjustment. I feel more relaxed now, at ease and happy not to rush as much. Sure, stuff still gets done, yet with a reduction in levels of worry or pressure from myself to hurry through something.

I’m not saying I’ve gone all zen and want to wear robes and sit on a lonely mountain somewhere, meditating for the rest of my life. My addiction to the system with its technology, money and shiny things is still very strong.

Perhaps I’ve had something of a revelation, that life doesn’t have to be so fast after all, that it is possible to enjoy 24/7 stuff as well as seeking out those perfect moments.

It’s about balance.

On the one hand the modern world is a glaring, in your face, noisy whirlwind of lights, sounds and the brainwashed ideal that instant gratification is the key to happiness.

Yet, on the other hand, it’s possible to dial all that shit back and experience something more, something different, something that’s most likely all around us all the time but seldom felt.

I’m grateful for serenity in whatever form it takes.

3 thoughts on “Giving Thanks # 2 – Serenity

  1. Those moments are wonderful and I truly believe Ben and Tilly were there because they knew you needed comfort. Animals know what is needed when. Glad you are mending well and found some “zen” sprinkled in your life as a result!

  2. Dogs are amazing at knowing when you need extra comfort. Each time I’ve had flu and been out of it with a temperature so high I’m lucky to be alive still, my lovely dog has transformed into my nurse. She’s lain on my bed all day looking after me, licking my hands or arms to cool me whenever I’ve been seriously overheating.

    I know what you mean about meditation. My head just won’t allow it and after a few minutes I become seriously bored and start thinking about all the things I could be doing instead. I’m somebody who even gets bored sunbathing! But there are two strange things that I find really therapeutic (both in the summer) — one is taking the clean washing off the line and folding it up in the laundry basket, ever so slowly and neatly while allowing my thoughts to drift, to a background of birdsong. The other is sitting on my favourite step next to the rockery outside the kitchen door, with a cup of tea in one hand and my arm around the dog. If anybody starts up a mower or a power drill during these moments of peace, it almost causes a schism in my head!

    Music — I either love it, or it drives me to distraction and makes me all on edge. Once upon a time I was into heavy metal, but that was when I was angry with the world and the whole universe. Now I like happy or soothing music, but am particularly partial to the counter tenor Philippe Jaroussky singing early music. My tastes are fairly broad, really. I just don’t like noise.

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