By chance on BBC this morning, I caught a story about the fact that today is World Listening Day, as established by the World Listening Project. Given that the work I do has a strong basis in listening, and that in fact Ilana Rubenfeld’s book is called The Listening Hand…well, my ears perked up, so to speak.
The World Listening Project is interested in acoustic ecology: not so much the visual features of a place (the landscape), but the auditory ones – the soundscape. This is fascinating to me, as I have always been very sensitive to noises, aware of sounds, and attuned to music. In the BBC piece, they mentioned how the 6-year-old son of the founder of the group is doing a comparative project on electric hand dryers – that’s right, the things you find in public restrooms – and how loud they are. I was thrilled and vindicated to hear them mention that small children are often terrified by the sound of these dryers: as a child, I was sent into hysterics regularly by hand dryers, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners.
So today is a day for focusing on the sounds around you, and exploring their effects.
What’s with me as I think about this is how sound and touch are related: the way sounds literally touch us, vibrate our cells and shift our emotional states. (I’m not even being woo-woo here: click the link!) Today is a day in which I will, amidst the hectic pace of my day, pay attention to how sounds enter my consciousness, how music shifts my emotions, how the constant white noise of the air conditioner soothes, how the little alert noises my computer and phone make raise my blood pressure. It’s also a great way of cultivating attention.
Try it now. Stop, close your eyes, and listen to what’s around you. What do you notice?