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A Little Peace and Quiet . . . Please! : We Suggest a Few Spots Where Angelenos Can Mend Their Damaged Souls

June 08, 1995|GRETA BEIGEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The alarm beeps at 7:30 a.m. You stretch and smile, anticipating an extra 20 minutes to luxuriate in bed, dawdle over a cup of tea or do your relaxation exercises.

Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

A leaf blower has beaten you to it. Never mind. You'll have breakfast first, then meditate. Soon you settle in your favorite chair and take a deep breath.

Neeee neee, neee neeeeee.

You rush to the window. A trash truck, clunking down the street, has stopped too close to that blue two-door parked at the corner. The coupe has started to wail.

Heart racing, you search for your new CD of Cecilia Bartoli singing Mozart. As the mezzo's tones waft through the apartment, you sigh. In relief.

Car alarms. Buses. Blaring TVs. It has been well documented that prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss. And that unwelcome intrusions in the middle of the night, during a meal or amid an important phone conversation can trigger irritability, even anger and hostility.

But what damage to our souls, that part of us that philosopher Thomas Moore in a recent interview called the "source or spring from which our thoughts come, and our ideas and emotions and our response to the world"?

In his bestsellers, "Care of the Soul" and "Soul Mates" (HarperCollins, 1992 and 1994, respectively), Moore's imperative for a healthy, creative life is to nurture our souls.

One way to do that, the author said by phone from his Amherst, Mass., home, is to actively seek quiet. And conversely, to pay attention to noise and its harmful effects.

"One of the prominent aspects of any religious life would be silence and quiet . . . which foster a more contemplative life," said Moore, who spent 12 years in a monastery and now writes and lectures on archetypal psychology, mythology and the imagination. "A contemplative life is a life less caught up in all of our neurotic behavior or hyperactivity.

"Paying attention to noise would be an effective way of dealing with many problems we have. We need to consider sound when we decide where to live, how to make our homes and where to have our office or our desk."

Above all, Moore believes that nature plays an essential role in restoring--and maintaining--balance in our lives. Whenever on tour, especially in a city such as New York, he takes time to visit a neighborhood with trees or spend time at the ocean.

But many stressed-out souls have little time to take a walk in the woods or frolic on the beach. As a result, on-the-run serenity seekers, and/or those desperate to block out noise, increasingly are tuning in to the next best thing: nature on tape. Sales of environmental recordings, which attempt to lull with the sounds of a lapping lake or the whoosh of the ocean, are booming.

But Stephen Halpern, a contemporary keyboardist, author and lecturer on the effects of sound on well-being, cautions that all nature--let alone nature on disc--is not created equal. Positive sounds such as a waterfall or a gentle, rippling lake or a songbird might lend a feeling of safety, he said, while a sea gull might induce melancholy.

Halpern, who has recorded 50 "atmospheric" albums including "Spectrum Suite" and "Inner Peace," added that nature's sound effects also vary according to season and locale. For instance, he said, the wind blowing in a cold Minneapolis hardly rates as soothing whereas a gentle breeze in the trees of North Carolina can be "very opening and very much soulful."

But what of life in Los Angeles? Is it possible to find pleasant sounds amid a city of this density and magnitude?

The following is a sampling of places that largely preclude noisy intervention--and foster a quiet of the inner kind.

* Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine (17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades; [310] 454-4114). With construction on the 19-room retreat finished and work on the 400-seat Temple nearing completion, a weekday visit to the spiritual sanctuary is once again largely peaceful. Circling the lake, there are grassy spots and benches, kiosks containing literature on the teachings of SRF founder Paramahansa Yogananda, a gazebo overlooking turtles and ducks and fish, and at last, a windmill chapel with soft-backed chairs and windows that open easily to the light and air.

Note: The gift shop, with its soothing incense and historical exhibits, opens at 11 a.m.; the chapel at 1 p.m. Best time to visit is the afternoon.

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Closed Mondays and some Saturdays.

*

* A Sunday at the University of Judaism (15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles; [310] 476-9777) is a day spent in contemplation. First stop: The Sondra and Marvin Smalley Sculpture Garden overlooking Mulholland Drive. Permanent works by Jenny Holzer, Sol Lewitt and Anthony Caro rest on grassy knolls surrounded by honeysuckle and brush. Also on site are works on loan by George Rickey, Keith Haring and Gwynn Murrill.

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