Life can become quite noisy sometimes. There is the obvious type of noise – that which arises from an accumulation of auditory stimuli from our environments. From the tense and chaotic sounds of rush hour traffic, to the sound of a hospital pager breaking the fragile silence of a call room, to the thunder of angry rainstorms, these types of sounds string together, at different volumes and pitches, to create a bustling soundtrack to our busy lives. And yet, for many of us, it may be a very different type of noise that renders our lives “noisy” at times –a type of noise that emerges from an internal chatter of multiple thoughts. Some thoughts racing, others lingering…some thoughts fleeting, others enduring…thoughts that when strung together, and life is busy, have the potential to become an indecipherable web of “thought-full” noise. Thoughts of what is to be, and what has been, replace an ability to experience being in the present. “Thought-full” noise can also lead to a mind space that does not allow one to authentically observe each thought as it floats in; positive self-talk might be lost in an overshadowing negative voice, while powerful and creative thoughts might be weighed down by thoughts of self-doubt and surrenders to the status quo.
As I write this, my dearest readers, I find myself on a quiet beach in Maine for an impromptu vacation. The October weather makes it too cold to go into the water, but is just right to find myself sitting with my feet in the sand, pen in hand, paper in lap. As you will learn from anyone who knows me well, it takes a great deal to get me out of the water when I am at the beach. And yet, on this vacation, without being able to go in the water, I am learning to appreciate the ocean and beach in a completely different way. I have the chance to observe it and admire it for the way the ocean waters kiss the shore – in beautiful symbiosis the waves carve away at the sandy shore and the shore breaks each wave, and yet both seem to kiss time and time again in a constant give and take. I am able to relish in this interaction of land and sea with my eyes closed too; in fact it is the sounds of this symbiotic dance of two elements that I appreciate most as I sit here, ironically, my mind full of thoughts. The sound of rolling and crashing waves creating a sort of “white noise”; a calming background noise that has been marketed commercially in so many forms such as computer screen savers, to baby mobiles, to machines that act as sleep aids. Here I have it in its most natural form.
As my mind takes in the calming effects of the “white noise” that surrounds me, I find myself reflecting on how I might learn from this moment to be able to better decipher through the “thought-full” noise when it happens. Here, by the water, to observe each thought, to appreciate each thought for what it is, to allow each thought to enter my gentle awareness, feels more effortless. Of course, we cannot always depend on vacations to the seashore to be able to be more mindful of our thoughts, but perhaps it is about finding the “white noise” in everyday moments that could be something to strive for. To commit to entering a space that allows us to decipher through the web and experience our thoughts with tender awareness. By interacting with our thoughts in this way, a noisy mind need not be “thought-full” in a heavy and confusing way, nor “thoughtless” in an empty and denying way, but rather “thoughtful” in a mindful and fulfilling way.
Just as the shore line is a place that is constantly in flux, changing with each meeting of wave and sand, gently as each invades each other’s space in a constant give and take, so can we create a mind space where our thoughts and our awareness gently meet, dancing with one another constantly. In this way the “thought-full” noise can be unraveled into a thoughtful string of moments where we may be present to experience and observe each thought as it floats through our minds.
Needless to say, I’ll be bringing back much more than sand in between the pages of my books this vacation – I’ll be bringing some “white noise” back with me as well!