Dialing back the noise

I caught the first faint glimpse of fall a couple of days ago. Unlike winter which announces itself with the first big storm, or summer when the first really hot day says “I’m here,” autumn is a time that whispers. “Something’s different,” it inkles, “but you’ll have to carefully look and listen for it.”

iStock_000007706240XSmallIt was only after slowing down and letting the moment sink in that I realized the shadows were a bit longer and the foliage more pronounced than it was the week before. Tiny, almost imperceptible wisps of oranges and yellows and reds painted the leaves. In a few days they would riot with color.

All of this seemed more obvious after listening to a speaker earlier in the week. He was bemoaning the fact that there was “too much noise going on” in his life to think clearly.

Does that ever happen to you?

As I was sitting at my desk reflecting on the speaker’s message, I mentally paused to listen to “my noise.” I’m often a multi-tasker so it’s not unusual to have the television news on, streaming music coming from my computer, and a Word document open while I’m answering email.  (And, if this could go on while taking a shower, it would be even better!)

All this startled me enough to turn off the television and the streaming audio, and to close the Word document and my email. I closed the cover of my laptop and sat in total silence. After a minute or so, I became aware of the gentle rustle of tree leaves outside my window. Then I heard a bird call out and another one answer.

The fact is that the trees didn’t just start rustling, nor did the birds just begin singing. Both had been going on imperceptibly, but “my noise” was masking it and keeping the quiet mental insights from being more easily heard.

Author and speaker John Maxwell has an interesting take on the topic. He says we need a “place to think our thoughts,” and suggests finding a quiet location, away from the bustle of our lives, to do so. I like his idea, but without such a place, is it possible to quietly reflect? Truth is that “quiet” is less a locality and more a state of mind. The “place to think our thoughts” can be anywhere we choose to be.

As a result, I’ve renegotiated my morning routine. No television news rehashing the same stories over and over in the background. No streaming audio. And no Wording and emailing, just quiet time to reflect, listen, study and to find joy in the moment.

The difference is amazing. I still get all the news I need (and them some). I still enjoy music. And I find myself less inclined to head to the email program even if a computer voice tells me I have new mail. (Maybe I should turn that feature of all together…)

This quiet time helps me do my work more effectively. And now it’s much easier to reach out to others during the day—plan-fully and in a much less frenetic way.

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