Much is said about the relaxing sound of running water. Listening to the gentle sound of a bubbling brook tends to relax people who pay attention to the sound. Fountains and water features are big sellers due, in part, to the belief that they help people escape the stresses of their day; in fact, these features often are called “calming ponds.” The sound of rain on the roof can be just as relaxing; it can remove the massive weight of stress in a few moments.
Meditation CDs and videos often feature the sounds of water. And white-noise machines, the electronic gadgets that some people use to block out background noise, often include water-sound settings. I’ve read that some hearing-aid manufacturers incorporate water-sound-background “white noise” to block the ringing of tinnitus.
The sound of water must be magical.
But it’s only the gentle sounds that are magical, don’t you think? I mean, the crashing noise of water flowing over Niagara Falls certainly cannot be soothing. The thunderous roar of a river overflowing its banks at a rapids can’t be said to be calming.
Yet, the noisy crash of waves on a smooth, sandy beach is calming. I know this, because I have spent many days sitting on beaches, allowing myself to be transfixed and calmed by the sound. Maybe it’s the slow, consistent repetition of the sounds of the waves breaking, the sound of water flowing across the sand toward the shore, then that slightly different sound as the water travels in the opposite direction, flowing back to its rightful place in the world. Whatever it is, my mood changes. I become more relaxed, calmer, and more mellow; I become more of the person I think I truly am than the person I seem to want the world to see.
The fact that we manufacture those sounds by building fountains or creating white noise machines or WAV files makes me question whether the natural environment is calming or whether it’s just the sounds made by the natural environment that bring about that sense of peacefulness? As always, I have an answer, though it may not be the right one. It’s the amalgamation of every element of the natural environment that calms us; the sounds, the smells, the mist in the air, the way the air tastes in our mouth when we breathe it in. They combine to create a magical stress reducer. Our white noise machines and calming ponds evoke all of those sensations through our sense of hearing.
Even if there’s no babbling brook or breaking wave or bubbling stream within earshot, and even if there’s no white noise machine at hand, we can choose to remember the sounds that evoke all those calming sensations. That, from my admittedly uneducated perspective, is what helps meditation relieve us of stress; we remember calming sounds and those calming sounds evoke other pleasantries and, collectively, they filter out the stresses that put us on edge.
If you play the audio-video clip below, and pay attention to it, I think you’ll find yourself relaxing and feeling more at peace with the world around you, if only for a moment. It’s the sound of water.