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Drowning Out My Inner Voice October 1, 2012

Posted by Living Abundance in Uncategorized.
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Drowning Out My Inner Voice; or Music versus Noise

The path of practice can bring about some wonderful and very fascinating transformations. One transformation I would like to share is my use of music.

Before starting practice, I listened to music quite regularly. I would have music playing in the background while doing other things, such as housework, cleaning, laundry, surfing the internet, etc. (except reading, because lyrics disrupt my processing of written words). I had an mp3 player that had to be playing anytime I was walking anywhere that took more than 5 or 10 minutes. Music was my entertainment. I used music as motivation to be happier, as consolation when I felt down, and an energizer at the gym.

Lately I have been finding that music is often just noise. I still love to listen and/or sing along to my favourite songs, and enjoy the energizing feeling from time to time of upbeat music. But I’ve noticed that when I listen to music, that’s often all that I will be doing. I don’t need to have music in the background all of the time while I am doing other tasks. I don’t need to have music in my ears when I am walking somewhere—especially when it drowns out the sounds of birds singing, the other kind of music!

And I have especially noticed that my toleration of music has dropped. Whereas a few years ago I could listen to song after song, for hours on end, now I shut it off after a handful of songs with the thought, “ugh, it just sounds like more noise.”

Why the change? Is it just pressure from the Buddhist/ meditation community to enjoy and appreciate silence? Or Thay’s insistence that every moment of our waking lives is an opportunity to practice and enjoy our breathing?

No, I think its something else. Specifically, I think I have made friends with the voice in the back of my mind.

Before meditation practice, I think music was a way to drown out that inner voice that we all hear in the back of our minds constantly narrating our lives, giving the play-by-play commentary. I certainly heard it, loud and clear. And that voice so often was judgemental, critical, impatient, and filled with time urgency.

So music was a way to turn that switch off. I had a lot of other off-switches as well, including alcohol (a very effective off-switch), the internet, and reading. In other words, music was more than just entertainment, music was a distraction from my mental life, my inner life. Music was a way of ignoring what was happening in my mind.

Music still is a distraction for me. I still have plenty of distractions, some of them I am aware of, some of them I am still discovering.

But I think there has still been a big shift towards how I handle that inner voice. The voice of my mind is still critical, still judgemental, and still gets impatient. But not quite as much, I think. And I’ve also been able to tolerate it more, I’m able to handle the criticism and impatience. Because I just see it as part of a mind that is being used to do a lot of things all at once to fulfill a large number of desires.

And I enjoy silence so much more now. Silence allows me to relax, it allows my awareness to sink in to my surroundings. Silence can be a breath of fresh air, a huge relief. Silence seems to be more normal to me, more of the default than it ever has been before.

I have also made a big switch in the type of music I listen to. I still have CD’s leftover from my high school years filled with angry hard rock. I still have many songs of women pining over their only one true love, their only life (gimme a break!). Except for the rare trip down memory lane, I listen to songs that make me feel good, songs that lift me up, energize me, and make me see the world in a positive way. Feel free to check out some of these songs on my page, Happy Listening. I find that the lyrics to these songs come to me even when I’m not listening to them, and when those phrases and lyrics are in the back of my mind it starts to make me see the world a whole lot differently.

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