What exactly is it we hear when a sound bothers us? And why do certain sounds bother us? Yes, those seem like silly questions, but if you think about it, sometimes you can let noise go unnoticed and other times you can’t.
A Zen master was once asked by a student how it was possible to meditate in such a noisy place, where all the city noises penetrate the windows and fill a room with noise that would otherwise be completely silent. The student found it impossible to meditate and got very frustrated. The Zen master responded; “Is the noise coming in to disturb you, or are you going out to it?”
A valid point. How often do we not simply tune out the noises in the background of our life? Though I’m not suggesting we go numb to the noise, I am suggesting to not let it bother us. As the Zen master asked, are you going out to the noise?
Dealing with the noises that surround us with a relaxed attitude is difficult if we are feeling stressed already. Noises trigger stress and our need to “get out of there,” which is what our stress hormones will tell us to do. We’re sort of pushed from both sides you might say.
One way to deal with it is to look at the disturbing noises as part of the place we have chosen to live and accept them as what they are rather than registering them as disturbing. Wishing it were different is normally what causes us more distress that the actual situation.
Now, I actually don’t want to just speak of the noises of our outside world. What brings us the most stress are the noises inside our head. They’re the reason why we cannot deal with the noises outside of us, because there is already a traffic jam going on inside our heads.
Our fears negotiate with our desires, our hurts negotiate with our need for love, and our ego negotiates with our need for belonging to a group or society. We keep these conversations and commentaries running in the background of our entire day. No surprise we cannot deal with another noise!
The chatter and discussions that we carry on with inside our head—not to mention our general self-battering—will bring us into a state of “noise.” A good daily practice is to keep letting go of these inner voices and understanding when they are helpful, such as intuition, and when they are causing us stress, such as negative messages. That is where our attention should be placed. Then the “noise” becomes messages for us instead.
By Jeanette Bronée
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