What Are We Really Listening To?

In today’s modern world we are surrounded by noise. We are constantly filling our space and minds with sound. Some of this comes from what we actively choose to listen to, while others are completely out of our control. There are external and internal sources. Environmental sources. Noise coming at us from every angle. Externally, we have all the day to day happenings. Music, News, Movies, Computer Games, Advertisements, Radio, Promotions, Social Media. Noise around the home from appliances, slamming doors, children playing, neighbours mowing their lawns, cars driving by. Environmental noise such as road traffic, industrial or work noise, construction work. We have nature sounds like waves crashing against rocks, the wind blowing through leaves in the trees, birds singing, and the sound of rain falling on a tin roof. Then there’s the general hustle and bustle of people going about their daily lives. People shopping, dining, socialising, going to work, children playing in the park, the daily grind. Internally, we have our words, thoughts, feelings, the general functioning of our minds and bodies, the internal chatter we have with ourselves throughout the day. There is noise that we create and put out into the world, and the quiet noise that takes place consciously and subconsciously in our minds. Sometimes we are so busy going about our lives, we don’t notice the millions of little messages and sounds we receive every day. I wonder what would happen if one day we stopped. Listened. I wonder what would happen if we took a moment to ask: What am I really listening to?

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet – Buddha.

Lately, I have been challenging myself to really tune in to the noise. To actively listen to and reflect on the messages I receive, and the messages I send out into the world. I’ve done this because as I’ve been intentionally creating a simpler and more soulful life, I’ve started hearing all the noise. And interestingly, the more I removed the material distractions the more noise I started hearing. Here are some examples:

  1. Television / Netflix – I used to love watching television and having my Netflix and chill weekends. It was my release and de-stress time to just sit in front of it and watch my favourite game shows, dramas, soaps, and movies. I often didn’t care what I watched, as long as there was something. But as I’ve gone about my journey, I’ve realised that a life with intention doesn’t prosper with mindless activity. So I decided to drastically reduce my screen time and set a clear purpose to anything I do watch. Now I mindfully watch a very small amount of TV if it’s educational or sparks a special interest. I watch more documentaries, more life stories, and less drama and chaos that doesn’t feed my soul.
  2. Music – As a lover of music, I had a music library filled to the brim with every possible genre. When I was younger I used to sing in a band and in clubs, and it was important for me to have a broad range and be versatile, so my music list and CD collection reflected this. When I made the decision to simplify my life, I also realised that a large portion of my music library was for other people, and not my own handpicked selection. So I sold or gave away my entire CD collection, and curated an online playlist, carefully selected with music that inspired, uplifted, reflected, rejuvenated and was more in line with my new soul simple existence. No more angry or offensive lyrics, chaotic compositions, and listening to popular music for the sake of it being popular. Instead, I have created a beautiful soul sanctuary I can go to for renewal and joy and inspiration.
  3. News – As human beings, I believe we have a responsibility to remain aware and conscious of our impact on others and the world around us. When I turn on the news these days, I’m struggling to find truthful, reliable content that informs me and helps me become a better person. Current affairs is filled with sensationalism, fear and fake news. I see journalists getting excited when a tragedy strikes because it gives them a headline and a story that may attract better ratings or win them some acknowledgement. Some stories are necessary, but to me the vast majority of the news we see, hear and read today is not always news. It’s gossip. It’s a space filler that targets our emotions and insecurities. From a news perspective, things are happening in the world, and being aware and prepared for what is out there serves a purpose. There’s a war out there – and I’m not saying we should downplay the reality of life today. However, the delivery of many of our news stories today seems biased and emotionally charged, and one sided. Not always objective, showing the many perspectives that make up the truth. So I have decided to switch it off. Search for the news I choose to remain across, and look for alternative sources that I feel give me a more holistic and balanced view of the world we live in. We don’t need to live under a rock, but we can apply some intention and purpose behind the news we connect with.
  4. Advertisements – I’ve worked briefly in Marketing, and I understand the psychology and strategy behind product, promotion, pricing, and placement. I get it. But as a consumer, having thoroughly analysed what this does to my mind and my behaviour I can’t endorse it anymore. Advertisements are great when they are objectively informing you of new products, different options and educating you on the benefits of one product over another. I wouldn’t use half of what I use today without having some exposure to marketing. But modern day advertisements deliberately target the emotions of the vulnerable consumer who soon believes they have a desperate need for a thing, and that without that thing we will somehow become less of a human being. We will be uglier, fatter, older, less popular, or somehow inhibited because the new thing will enable you to live life better than you have lived it before. It warps our perception of what we want and turns it into something we need. It manipulates consumers into buying stuff they don’t really want or need, and often can’t afford, because someone out there wants to make a tonne of money and become the best at what they do. (Can’t afford it? That’s ok! Here’s our latest credit purchase option!). Our sense of reality becomes distorted, and we fall into it hook line and sinker. Since turning my back on this consumerist lifestyle, I have realised that it was all a lie. I didn’t really need any of it at all. And that, for me, has changed everything.
  5. Social Media – I have recently posted a seperate article on why I have shutdown all of my social media. I don’t even promote this blog on social media. Why? Because in my experience, whilst there is some good quality content available, social media has largely become a junkyard of some the the loudest noise we have heard in human history. People have died from online bullying. Others have died trying to take the worlds best selfie. The entire landscape of human interaction has changed, and not necessarily for the better. I don’t think I need to say anymore except that marketers, advertisement companies and social-entrepreneurs are rubbing their hands together in delight. Meanwhile we have good people in the world feeling more isolated and alone than ever. Think about it.
  6. Gossip – Humans are social animals. We crave interaction and community. Having conversations with other people should be a satisfying and soul enriching experience. And then the subject of someone else comes up. Sadly, we seem to have a history of communicating about other people. We talk about what their up to, where we saw them, what they were wearing, who they were with, why they were there, why they weren’t somewhere else. Then comes the opinions, the judgement, the criticism. We should all over them. But when you stop and listen to the purpose of our conversations, do we need to know all of this? Does anyone actually care? Why do we need to have an opinion on everyone else’s lives? It’s time to walk away from gossip. If anything, it’s a symptom that something is missing in our own lives. Focus on improving yourself and making a more positive contribution to the world. Your words and your actions are your legacy. How you make other people feel is your legacy. Ditch the gossip.
  7. Self talk – this is an interesting one, because the noise that comes from our minds is not always something we have conscious awareness of. The more noise we surround ourselves with, the less space we have to hear what is actually going on inside us. But if you strip back all the outside noise, and allow yourself to turn within for a while, you’ll find a whole maze of different thoughts, feelings, assumptions, judgements and biases that you probably never knew you had. Meditation is one way to practice tuning into yourself. Pay attention to the chatter in your mind. Is your mind constantly spinning? Are you constantly sending little messages to yourself through the day. Even the other day, I dropped something and caught myself in the midst of thinking “God, i’m such an idiot!”. And don’t worry, at times I’m also the person who scurries around the shopping centre talking to themselves as I get my grocery shopping done. It’s all that self-talk. What you say and think to yourself matters – it plays a large part in what you project to the outside world.
  8. Nature – Interestingly, removing a lot of the distracting noise from my world has opened up noise of a more calming and beautiful source. The sounds of our natural world. Lately, because I’ve turned the TV off, I’m suddenly hearing more birds and more wind blowing through the trees. Instead of watching a movie, I enjoy a cup of tea and listen to the sounds of the night – cicadas, frogs, rain, even the white noise of the moonlight. Listen. Can you hear it? It’s beautiful. There is so much joy to be found in nature, and I’ve found a new way of relaxing and winding down after a long day as a result.

So what are you listening to these days? Maybe take some time to stop, and really hear what is filling up your space. You may feel a whole new sense of euphoria when you make space for the sounds you really want to hear.

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