When was the last time you drove in your car in complete silence? No radio. No cell phone conversations. Just the ambient noise of the world around you. Do you ever sit in silence in your own home (and being asleep does not count)? Stop and think about how much noise surrounds you, surrounds us all, all the time.
I am amazed how often friends of mine leave their TV’s blaring while we try to converse in person or on the phone. I believe they are truly oblivious to it, unaware that the noise is a distraction, unaware too, that they are talking louder to overcome it. Likewise, in the car: having background music is one thing, but commercials that air louder than the last song, are frequently not turned down. The driver seems indifferent to the intrusion of the radio into our conversation.
Are you guilty of any of these examples? Worse yet, do you find comfort in having noise around you when you are alone? Do you need the TV to be on when you are home – just to give the illusion that you are not alone? Remember, being alone does not equate to loneliness.
Recently I took a long hard look (or should I say, listen) to how much noise assaults us on a daily basis. It is one thing to volunteer for this noise abuse. We control our radios, televisions, and streaming internet. But how about those gas stations with video screens blasting commercials at you while standing at the pump? The gas station in my neighborhood has the same commercial loudly playing from one screen for both sides of the pump island. The problem is that these commercials are not in sync so there is a 1-2 second delay from one side of the screen to the other. This results in a confusing barrage of unintelligible noise that no one pays attention to. So what is the purpose? Surely this method of advertising does not result in sales!
Why is a Life Coach addressing this, you may ask? Because how on Earth can we sort through the jumble of questions, worries, and responsibilities slam-dancing inside our heads, with so much grenade-like noise disorienting us on the outside? With so much to get done, both individually and globally, how can we focus with the volume (pun intended) of chaos that constantly bombards us.
When I was studying acting, a director assigned us to memorize lines and rehearse scenes while standing between a television and radio (with both electronics turned on, of course). The goal was to maintain keen focus while surrounded by distractions. That is a great tool for an actor. But most people are not trained with this skill, and furthermore, this is not a skill to employ when you need to reduce stress, relax your body and mind, and think clearly!
In the next week I challenge you to make some quiet time for yourself. If you live with one or more people, especially those with children, you cannot imagine how therapeutic a brief period of time spent in silence can be. Find a time when you can be alone, or at least a room where you can isolate yourself from distracting sights and sounds, and just BE. You don’t need to do this for long – I’m not suggesting a meditation session (although that is a rewarding experience). Just a few minutes where you can feel yourself breathe. Listen to the “softer” sounds around you, the noise of your home or yard.
Also perform this silence test while driving in your car. Do not be surprised if you start talking or singing to yourself. We are so conditioned, addicted if you will, to having noise around us, that when forced into a situation of silence, we fill in that space without even thinking about it.
For a real challenge, take a walk in the wilderness, or in the still of the early morning. Do not wear an iPod, do not engage in conversation if you have a walking partner. Just walk, observe the sights and sounds of nature around you.
My attack on noise may seem trivial to you, but I assure you on a global level noise pollution is staggering and its impact is hugely detrimental. On an individual level it is just one more way for you to get distracted and lost from achieving your goals and being happy. If one person at a time can make their world a little quieter, then soon the entire world will be a little quieter. Then maybe we can all get more positive changes done!