Lately, I have gotten into yoga. The yoga class I like the most (because the instructor actually instructs those of us who are novices) is at a gym where the weight equipment is on the second floor and the yoga room is on the first floor. Throughout our yoga class, weights are dropped with booming resonance, sounding like thunder or explosions. Not a good environment for finding your Zen.
Or, perhaps, it serves as an important lesson.
During one of my yoga classes, a particularly loud boom jolted me from my mindful and peaceful place and abruptly pulled me back to the first floor at the gym. I could have been upset and frustrated at the interruption, but instead, it reminded me that life is full of noise.
The continual bing of the email or text notification, interrupting every moment of our days. The 24-hour news cycle that continually shares what is difficult, disappointing and dangerous in our world. The continual yack of people on cell phones, even in quiet places like a waiting room or a trail in a pristine grove of hemlocks.
When we are pushed and assaulted by the distractions and noise of our world, we get worn out. Notice how you interact with yourself and others when you are worn out. Generally, this isn’t your best.
Sometimes you can control the noise, but in most cases, you have to learn to create your own internal quiet oasis within the noise. Learning to be fully present in a noisy world is key to being happy and successful in that same noisy world. Those who meditate share that when you develop your practice, you can meditate in the peace and quiet on a beach or in the cacophony of a subway car.
Don’t let the external noise interrupt your internal quiet.
Finding your internal quiet gives us the ability to tune in to ourselves – to understand what we are feeling, thinking and experiencing. It is in this time that we better understand who we are so we can more calmly and wisely respond to our noisy and distracting world.
Let me show you what this looks like in a real-world example. Try this: memorize the following two lines while you have the television on or while you are watching a YouTube video: “Mindfulness means paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment. This is how to show up to yourself and your world.”
Did you find this easy? Challenging? For most people, I bet it was tough. Here’s why: your brain easily gets interrupted by external distractions and noise.
Now, create a space of quiet and calm. In that space, try to memorize the same two lines. You will likely be more successful at the task.
See the impact of creating quiet? Sure, sometimes you can remove yourself from the noise and be in a place that is literally quiet. But in most cases, you will have to create your place of quiet amid the noise. It will be up to you to find a way to get to your inner quiet, even when the world around you is loud.
So, whether it is weight-lifters dropping weights during a yoga class or the ever-present technology making sounds and recommendations to our thoughts and comments, our world is a distracting one. It is up to each of us to either turn down the noise or learn to tune it out. In the quiet moments is where we can process our feelings, our emotions, our thoughts and even our world, to wisely, deliberately and intentionally interact, not react, to it.
Wherever you find yourself, take three breaths. Calm your body. Quiet your mind. Focus on something internally. Allow yourself to dwell on that – a feeling, a mantra, a kind thought, a wish or anything that is productive and happiness-based. In this way, and regardless of the noise and distractions around you, you can create an oasis of peace where you can calm yourself, manage your emotions and be present. From there, you can reach back out to that noisy world in a calmer, more intentional and a more mindful way.
By Jay Forte
Consider reading Small Steps are Key for Big Changes