Sounds are like thoughts: we can’t control them, they come and go, some are stronger than others, and some can have a strong physical and emotional impact on us.
Certain sounds can create negative or positive reactions within us, particularly if we are stressed or feeling a bit down. When I’m studying or trying to plan out something at last minute, loud noises or crowds of people speaking can really stress me when out and cause me to become anxious. To avoid this I usually put earphones in with relaxation music on really low to block out any negative noises.
This weeks exercise teaches us how to be with sounds and thus provides training for being with our thoughts. It asked for us to pay attention to all sounds. How our body reacts to sounds. How our bodies pick up sounds like a radar. How the sound can manifest throughout the body in physical sensations. (Heart beats faster, your body jumps). How we judge a sound. The story we create when we hear a sound. (Oh that sounds like the neighbours are arguing nextdoor). Pay attention to your mood following each sound and how this affects your interpretation and thus your thoughts. A good example of this is when you are lying in bed before you fall asleep. You hear a noise and your thoughts jump to a conclusion that someone may be coming up the stairs. You begin to panick. Your heart beats faster. You feel frightened. This exercise asks to acknowledge the story brought about by the sound and let it go by bringing your attention back to receiving the sound as a collection of notes at a particular pitch.
We can also use music or sounds to lift our moods and bring about happy or sad memories. I have certain playlists on my phone that I listen to depending on what mood I want to be in or what mood I am in already. I’m the worst for playing sad songs when I’m in a depressed mood. Bring on tears and make myself even more depressed. This exercise asks you to nip that in the bud the second you notice it and change the tune!!
Pay attention to the small sounds that are easily missed like the birds or the neighbours cutting their grass. This is all part of being mindful. Building our awareness to everything in the world, step by step.
WHAT DO WE DO WITH NOISE THAT IS DRIVING US MAD?
When the sounds you hear are unbearable and you find it hard to tune in to them, what do you do then? The instruction remains the same. Acknowledge the story the sound creates, the emotions it brings about, the thoughts that arise, how it manifests throughout the body. Use your breath here to anchor yourself when your thoughts and story tries to bring you away. The ‘breathing through your feet on the floor’ exercise works perfectly here! Always bring yourself back to your breath and any felt sensations throughout the body. The noise you are hearing is not personal. It is just a collection of notes and vibrations passing through the ear.
By resisting the negative noise we create negative reactions which become automated responses. With this exercise we want to simply explore a different way of relating to a noise. Build awareness. Let go of resisting the noise and instead embrace it and move towards it.
Self awareness is key!