August 19, 2013

Tranquillity Mapping

Tranquillity is the experience of inner peace.

Being in tranquil places is one way that allows people to relax, escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life, and ‘boost their batteries’. But tranquil places are difficult to find on an increasingly crowded, developed planet. This is unfortunate for some thinkers equate tranquillity with inner peace and liberation.

How rare are tranquil places these days? So rare that researchers in the UK have been mapping them there in order to protect them. Their ultimate goal is to develop a national 'tranquility guide' for preservation of such areas, and so people can seek out these special healing spots.

One of the most important factors in people's descriptions of tranquil places in the study, was that the area be a natural landscape. Openness was also an important factor among several others.

Factors with positive impacts on tranquillity:

  • a natural landscape 
  • wide open spaces
  • low noise levels
  • presence of running water in rivers, streams and brooks
  • lake and sea views
  • birds and other wildlife
  • clear open night sky with/without moon
  • beach in a unique location
  • forests
  • open field, flora etc. with gentle to moderate breeze

Tranquillity map of Britain (green is very tranquil, red is least tranquil)

There were also several things that the people surveyed reported as making places less tranquil.

Factors with negative impacts on tranquillity:

  • motorized transportation - cars, motorcycle, trains and aircraft 
  • roads and railways
  • light pollution
  • large numbers of people
  • pylons, power lines, masts and wind turbines
  • noise
  • urban development

The mapping study showed that tranquillity is not necessarily the absence of all noise, activity and buildings. Indeed it found that many rural activities, such as farming and cows calling, and natural noises such as birdsong and flowing water, enhance people’s experience of tranquillity.

A regional director of a local group dedicated to preserving natural areas as important havens which are under constant threat from development says, "Tranquillity matters to people and it needs protecting."

Ultimately, though, tranquillity is not found anywhere except in your head. It is possible to be troubled by a busy mind while immersed in quiet nature, just as it is possible to find tranquillity in the city, or your home or yard.

Being  present in the moment is one prerequisite, as is desirelessness, or the mental renunciation of desires for objects of pleasure. In other words, you have to be in the here and now, and you have to release your urges to cling to stuff before you can find true peace.

Tranquillity is always available to us, but it is covered in layers of distraction in the busyness of every day life. It is possible through presence and non-attachment to stuff and outside experiences, to peel the layers of distraction back until a calm peace of mind at the centre is able to shine through.

Beautiful places can help in this regard, but in the end each of us makes the decision to cultivate a calm and unagitated state or not.

May we all work toward being free from disturbances, and experience tranquillity as often as possible wherever we are.

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