Longing for peace

Longing for peace

Theologian Seitlinger: "Light a candle and let silence take effect" © mapman (shutterstock)

Especially in the hustle and bustle of the Advent season, the longing for silence grows in many people. But it can be quite challenging to find peace and quiet. Theologian Michael Seitlinger recommends starting with exercises of a few minutes a day.

Hustle and bustle in the city center: At the Christmas market, the carousel spins to "Merry Christmas Everywhere" and "Oh Tannenbaum," while hectic drivers honk their horns in the streets. There is usually no sign of "Silent Night" in the days before Christmas. Around half of adults in Germany are stressed by the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle in city centers, according to a recent survey by the KKH Kaufmannische Krankenkasse health insurance fund. Yet many people long for contemplation and silence, especially during Advent.

Reality usually looks different, and not just in the weeks before Christmas. Noise is increasingly becoming a problem, as figures from the EU statistics authority Eurostat show. According to this, there is hardly a European country where people are as annoyed by the background noise of their surroundings as in Germany. Almost 28 percent of Germans find it permanently too noisy. The EU average is only 18 percent.

Tends to be quieter

But it actually gets louder from year to year, as many people think? The German Society for Acoustics (DEGA) finds no evidence for this. Michael Jacker-Cuppers, chairman of DEGA's Noise Working Group, says that far too many people are still exposed to noise levels that are harmful to health, especially as a result of traffic noise. But modern engines, better road surfaces and noise abatement measures have tended to make it quieter.

"But we find that people today feel more annoyed at the same level than they did ten years ago."The reason is probably a general increase in the level of stress to which people are exposed, speculates the noise expert.

"Monkey circus inside"

Michael Seitlinger observes that it is often the great inner turmoil that makes people extremely sensitive to noise. "There's often a real monkey circus going on inside us," says the Munich-based Catholic theologian and mindfulness trainer. In his seminars, it sometimes happens that stressed participants even feel disturbed in their peace by birdsong. At the same time, however, many people are downright afraid of silence, notes Seitlinger.

Rudiger Standhardt, a mindfulness trainer and educator from Giessen, has similar experiences. "The longing for calm is very ambivalent."On the one hand, many people want nothing more than silence, says Standhardt, who leads silence seminars, among other things.

"Quietness gets me down"

"But then when the calm kicks in, within a very short time the same people say, 'The calm is getting me down.The reason for this is that silence initially brings unresolved conflicts or questions to the forefront of our consciousness. Some people could not stand it. Seitlinger emphasizes: "Mindfulness and silence are not wellness products."Coming to peace and quiet can be quite challenging.

But it's worth accepting a certain amount of discomfort at first, Standhardt explains. "There is no detour to avoid this initially very sobering phase."Then it does not remain however with this unpleasant condition. Those who engage in silence can find restful peace and explore new depths within themselves. Seitlinger is also convinced that greater inner balance and calm can also help people to suffer less from noise from their surroundings.

Pause for three minutes three times a day

But how can you find peace in everyday life between your job, shopping and household chores?? "It is important to switch off the autopilot," says Standhardt. People often get up in the morning and automatically go about the many tasks that the day has in store without pausing. One way to bring more calm and mindfulness into the day, he says, is to take regular short breaks. This is also possible at work. Standhardt recommends pausing mindfully for three minutes three times a day. In terms of time, this is quite feasible. "Nevertheless, this is a huge challenge for many at first," Standhardt notes when advising workers.

To get started with mindfulness training, he recommends beginning with 15 minutes of silence in the morning after getting out of bed. "If they keep this up for two months, many people notice that they gain a healing distance, even when everything around them is as crazy as ever."In the meantime, there are also numerous apps that guide people through mindfulness exercises or meditations.

Regular practice is important

Crucial to success is practicing regularly, Seitlinger says. That would be an alternative program to the constant Christmas hustle and bustle: meditation in the morning – or quite classically lighting a candle at the Advent wreath and letting the silence take effect on you. After all, Advent means "arrival," says the theologian. What is meant here is the time of preparation for the feast of the birth of Jesus Christ. "But those who pause and are mindful can also arrive at themselves," says Seitlinger.

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