Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday: Places of Serenity

There’s no doubt that one’s environment can enhance or hinder the act of meditation. Woody Allen, for instance, once said that he finds it easier to fall asleep in Manhattan – with its 24-hour soundtrack of horns, sirens, and other urban distractions – than in the countryside, where the crickets and, worse, silence drive him insane. (Perhaps that explains a few things about that strange little man.)

In my case, though, I definitely find more peace in the natural world – which is probably why I always look forward to my summers in northern Michigan. Doing yoga amid the maple and birch trees, watching the sunrise over the lake, heck, even lying on the hammock, I can literally feel my blood pressure lowering, my lungs breathing easier, my muscles relaxing. And I know that it simply wouldn’t be the same in a city like New Orleans or Los Angeles, where it’s hard to escape the ever-present sounds of crowds and traffic.

Luckily, despite its bustling cities, crowded national parks, and other overwhelming destinations, America boasts an assortment of tranquil places. Some of my favorites include the desolate coastline of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the sculpted cliffs of California’s Red Rock Canyon State Park, the quiet saltwater marshes southeast of New Orleans, and the isolated mudflats on the northern end of South Padre Island. Regardless of what I’m doing – hiking, fishing, or just sitting in the sand – such locales make it easier for me to be still for a while, forget the day-to-day grind, and contemplate the bigger questions about life, the universe, and everything.

So, what about you? Do you believe that a person’s environment can enhance his or her meditation, and if so, what’s your favorite place of serenity?


Stephanie Faris said...

I guess it's all what you're used to. Woody Allen feels comfortable with city noises. I'm not too comfortable in the country myself. I'm a suburbs I guess that's what I'm used to. I find too much silence unsettling.

Laura Martone said...

You're absolutely right, Steph. Finding a place that's conducive to calm and meditation is highly personal. Some do prefer sirens to silence. The point, I guess, is that everyone deserves a place of peace, and such a place is different for everyone - that's what my novel is all about.

TLH said...

My favorite places are where I can't see anything of civilization. No houses, no electric wires, no roads. But I hate silence. I like to hear birds, waves, insects, anything natural.

I want to forget that I'm human, to go outside myself into the Earth around me.

So I guess I'm the polar opposite of Stephanie! :D

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Tara! Welcome to my li'l blog. I know exactly what you mean about needing to escape civilization. My husband and I live in three different places - New Orleans, Los Angeles, and northern Michigan - and while we love the bustle of our two cities, we ADORE the peace and quiet of our summer refuge. Living on Big Bear Lake is wonderful - because it's just a quick walk into the woods, and you're away from all houses, wires, and roads, and in the presence of rustling leaves, scurrying squirrels, tweeting birds, and the occasional deer. Like you, I find it easier to meditate in a natural setting, surrounded by natural sounds. And, ultimately, I'm not thrilled with absolute silence either. I need an ambient soundtrack - wind, waves, insects, animals, etc. Even at night, I have to sleep with the window open so I can hear the night sounds.