For anyone who came along to Mindful Core Pilates this week, you would have noticed us trying something new… mindfulness of sound. In my experience, this is by far one of the more difficult mindfulness practices. In mindfulness of sound we release our attention of our body and breath, (or whatever you have chosen as your starting point for awareness), and feature the soundscape centre stage in the field of awareness. And I mean, the whole domain of sound, including the sounds waves and the spaces between the sounds. The difficulty lies in simply ‘hearing’ those sounds, without judgement, without thinking about the sounds, without liking or disliking a particular sound or drawing on memories of a particular sound… just simply hearing what is around you, moment to moment.
So why is it so hard for us to simply just hear what is to be heard?
Human beings are evolved and intelligent creatures with a powerful capacity to receive information, from whichever sensescape is available at the time, cognitively process that information, critically analyse it and compare it against our memories, emotions and experiences. We then have the power of the frontal lobe of our brain to examine the consequences and choices we have in regards to what we do with that information, and we have the capacity to plan and teach with that information. This is why the human race has managed to evolve to the point that we have, each generation seemingly being able to build on what the last has taught us and continue to innovate beyond our predecessors wildest dreams.
Then there is the matter of survival. Cognition, catastrophizing and preoccupation has actually helped us survive in the past. Let’s take the scenario of 2 cavemen who happen to hear a sound in the bushes. The first caveman would just hear the sound, and not worry, and everything was lovely. The second caveman imagined the worst possible scenario, a tiger, just like the one that killed his father, and worried about what would happen to his family, and his heart rate went up and he got ready to run and he was very stressed. 99% of the time, the sound was merely wind rustling the leaves, and 1% of the time, it was a tiger. That 1% of the time, the stressed, over thinking, catastrophizing caveman survived, and the calm, peaceful caveman was killed. So as you can see, once upon a time, it was not in our best interest to simply hear for the sake of hearing. It is built into our evolution, our biology and our survival instincts to not merely hear, but to listen, and think.
The world needs mindfulness.
Luckily for most of us, we don’t have to outrun tigers anymore. We have created a world for ourselves that is relatively comfortable and we have adapted the environment to suit us, rather than the other way around. But remember back to one of my previous blog, ‘why the world needs mindfulness’– we have created an autopilot, task by task, consuming and exhausting world. The stresses of life are no longer in out-running tigers, but meeting deadlines, writing emails, multitasking between home duties and paid work, and getting your 7 month old ready for ‘rhyme time’ at the library (ps. never did I think my life would revolve around ‘rhyme time’ at the library :P). In today’s digital, fast paced, high pressured (and slightly A.D.D) society, we need mindfulness more than ever, and instead of the ‘anxious’ ones driving forward the human race (as in our caveman analogy), it will be the calm, connected and mindful ones that reap the health benefits and achieve a greater quality of living.
Then today happened…
As my husband walked out the door this morning for his flying exam, I told him to practice some mindfulness before he gets in the aircraft, to help calm his mind and give him clarity. Just as I said that and he closed the door behind him, mayhem of sound erupted in my home, the baby was screaming, the dog was sniffing in the pantry wondering why his breakfast hadn’t been served, the TV was blaring and the washing machine was beeping. After mild panic, I realised what a perfect opportunity it was for mindfulness of sound. So I stopped, picked up my baby, and just heard what was there to be heard. Simply, immersing myself in the raw experience of hearing. It was super hard! The mind is quick to get moving, thinking thoughts about how I don’t like the sound of that beeping, whether TV is bad for babies, planning my next 10 jobs around the house and worrying that it won’t all get done before ‘rhyme time’ at the library (again that rhyme time!). But each time the mind wanders, I simply notice where it has gone, and kindly and compassionately bring it back to the present moment, to the present sounds, the spaces between the sounds and the silence which lies underneath all of it.
Accepting the soundscape.
As I mentioned, being with and accepting the soundscape as it is in the present moment is an extremely hard task, and one that is hard to do for more than say, 5 minutes. But if you master it, it can give you the most wonderful tool to relieve stress and bring calm and clarity to some of the most anxiety provoking situations: A busy shopping centre, a noisy plane, my house at 8 am.
A most beautiful place to start practising mindfulness of sound is in nature. Do you remember the last time you were outside and were simply aware of the sounds around you- The birds, the ocean, the wind and the insects. For many of us it might have been when we were children.
As I sit at my desk writing this blog on a Friday morning, my mind suddenly darts off to the task ahead of me this weekend; to get myself, my baby and all our worldly possessions we need for a week away, onto a plane at busy Melbourne airport with 1 set of hands and a moderate fear of flying (#TheAviatorsWife)… daunting, at the best of times. Perhaps mindfulness of sound is exactly what I need to ease the stress of flying with a baby and the mayhem of the airport. They say our babies feed off our tensions and fears. Perhaps my mindfulness will give my baby some calm too!
In the next few blogs I get back to basics and re-visit the pelvic floor and pregnancy. We will continue to explore the wonderful world of mindfulness in the coming months as well. Until then…
Be kind to yourself,