The Quiet Life

Zen garden

Early mornings, especially on a beautiful summer day, are amazing. I can hear the birds chirping, the cool breeze flirting with the shrubs and the majestic trees yielding ever so gently to the wind. I get to enjoy the peace and quiet before modern life awakens.

Before I know it, the symphony of noise begins—car engines, lawn mowers, construction work, dogs barking, kids screaming … and nature sounds get lost in the background. With windows almost always open in the summer, the noise is more amplified.

Indoor, there is digital noise: phones, text messaging, push notifications, emails, and websites, offers and promotions.

There is another form of noise that I call social noise. This idea that we need to be connected with anybody and everybody all the time, or at least most of the time. We need to know what’s going on in the world. We need to check with our friends on social media. We need to participate more and be everywhere.

On top of all of that there is the internal (mental and emotional) noise. Our minds are buzzing with stuff that’s useless most of the time.

Noise (of all types) shapes our attitudes and controls our emotional state.

To add to the noise:

We live in a world of 24-hour news and media, where we equate loudness with importance. The people who scream the most appear to be more powerful. The loud attempts to capture our attention with hype and manipulation keep us clicking and checking.

Where do we find peace and quiet? And how comfortable can we be with all that noise?

I don’t’ think there is one answer to this question. Each one of us has different preferences.

But regardless of how much noise we can live with, we all need some peace and quiet to expand the soul, open up the heart, and clear the mind.

To me …

Noise is a form of clutter. And just like physical clutter, it:

Distracts us constantly, interrupting our focus and scattering our attention.

Can be an escape and avoidance mechanism that numbs our minds and hearts. Instead of facing our reality and issues, we run towards the noise.

Overwhelms our mind and senses. The more we think we have to see, hear and do the more stressed we feel.

A quieter life will clear some of the noise clutter. It will:

  • Create space and let us ease into our days with more calm and less stress.
  • Guide our focus on what matters.
  • Help us face our issues and deal with them.

A roadmap to a quieter life

Each one of us gets to decide how noisy or quiet our life needs to be.

If you can move to a quieter area that meets your needs, do it when you can. But if you can’t, consider the following ideas.

1. Accept and adapt

Some things cannot be changed. So the sooner we accept that, for our peace of mind, the better.

If you live in an area and you’re surrounded by noise, but can’t move, the best approach is to accept the noise or create mechanisms to reduce it. We can’t dictate how loud others can be or how they should express themselves.

You can use headphones (especially noise cancelling) when there is too much going on for your attention to stay focused.

I will do my best to focus on the work I’m doing when I hear the dog next door barking. I’ll smile and remember that this little puppy has a voice that needs to be expressed—the same with children playing and screaming or neighbors taking care of their lawns or people going places to express who they are.

At the peak of the noise, a visit to the public library may be all I need.

2. Do your part and cut down on your own noise

Your own actions are the only ones you can change. So if you can reduce your noise levels by:

  • Speaking softly (or speaking less),
  • Sharing only the important stuff on social media,
  • Keeping the music and TV volume in your home at reasonable levels,
  • Driving less and walking more,
  • Reducing exposure to digital and social noise by focusing on what you truly want, not what’s expected of you,
  • Choosing a few meaningful connections and letting go of the rest, without the fear of being left behind,
  • Clearing your mind and healing your heart.

3. Experiment and welcome space and emptiness

One of the most noticeable things when we start clearing clutter is the expansion we feel around us. A clear space appears larger, emptier, and even colder. And that might be scary at first.

The same thing applies to nonphysical de-cluttering. We’re in effect stripping ourselves from the noise that keeps us busy … and the emptiness and expansion feel weird.

The best approach to get comfortable with less noise (or less of anything) is to ease into it by experimenting with one area at a time. Think of each experiment as a mini adventure into the inner workings of your mind.

Consider these ideas as a starting point and venture into more, as you get comfortable with the process.

  • Sit in stillness for a few minutes in a room by yourself without anything to do. Just be—no TV, or radio in the background.
  • Check your email and social media only two times a day and limit your time to 15 minutes each. Try it for a few days.
  • Intend for one day (or one work day) to talk less and listen more, with minimum attempts at interrupting others.
  • Don’t check Facebook (or any other social media account you obsess over) for 3 days.
  • Go for one weekend without accessing the Internet.
  • Unsubscribe from 2 email newsletters or blogs and see how you feel about it in a week’s time.
  • Go for one day without entertainment—no TV, movies, music, or radio (including online access). If you can’t do it for a day, do it for a few hours.

Notice how you feel and what urges come up as you experiment with less noise and more quiet.

What urges do you have? And what triggers them?

The more you notice and become aware of your behavior, the easier it would be to change it. You can live reality, not avoid it, and do what matters to you—without the stress of unnecessary noise and distraction.

A certain level of noise is unavoidable and is part of nature and life. We can’t tell nature to shut up. And we can’t tell others to live by our standards. But we can do our part and live as quietly as we can.

A quiet life is something I not only desire, but it’s the way I thrive. I truly believe when we find our quiet place, we will live in harmony with all of life.