I recently bought a new pair of headphones. Not the in-ear cell phone variety, mind you, but those seemingly clunky-looking over-the-ear kinds of headphones that look more like leathery earmuffs. (I love the pair I bought after lots of research and getting a good deal on them. Clarity and base-response are particularly impressive.) So now, I look like one of those dorks who walk around with large headphones wrapped around my head. In addition to using them for listening to music, playing on my keyboard in private, and online viewing, I got them for one other specific reason:
Whether it is a song or podcast, it really is better to isolate the specific sounds you desire. This makes for a much more pleasurable listening experience, but I love noise cancellation for one other purpose:
Yes, silence. As a college student, I have come to find out that libraries on college campuses, or any other location on campuses for that matter, do not tend to be quiet. When I want to study and need to deeply concentrate, I unplug my headphones from any device and put them on. It looks like I am listening to something, but I am actually trying to distill my thoughts into a private bottle of silence.
I have been doing a lot of this kind of stuff lately, the practice of cancelling out those things that are distracting and create unnecessary sensory baggage. For example, I have recently put myself on a facebook diet. It is not that I hate facebook. On the contrary, I use it to check in on friends who live far away from me and to promote my shows and posts from this blog. It’s fairly useful as a way to share my creative work. Otherwise, the blistering negativity on my facebook feed has been a real downer lately, and there is too much stuff on there that tends to be mindless and unimportant.
My facebook diet has consisted of two main actions. Primarily, I have removed the app (and its accompanying “messenger” app) from my cell phone. Secondly, I only check my account once every day for a maximum of a half hour on my laptop. This is enough time to respond to any messages I may have received and to make sure loved ones are alive and well.
With these dietary restrictions, I have cancelled out a little bit more noise from life. The urge to check my facebook account is minimal, if not non-existent these days. The time limitation helps me to do only what I need to do and then to actually log out when I am done. This creates much more time for big daily priorities.
On a broader scale, it is a good practice to analyse the parts of your life that either create noise or give you something truly substantive, meaningful, and worthy of your limited time. Here is a small list of potential things that could always use some cancelling out.
1. Sources of feedback
If you have a lot of people in your life who give you advice, maybe it is worthwhile to ask yourself who, of all those people, gives the most constructive and thoughtful feedback that never feels condescending, controlling, or hurtful. Maybe those are the people truly worth listening to.
2. Recreational Activities
Maybe you only play frisbee golf on the weekends because you were pressured by friends to join in, even though you hate it. Maybe you’ve been thinking of baling out of your book club because it’s kind of boring. What if all you want to do is knit or bake pies all day even if all of your friends or family members don’t care about it? Isn’t life more fun when you are doing something you really enjoy? Take some moments to look closely at what you do on your free time. Make sure that you are doing something that is fun or somehow gratifying for you. It’s YOUR time. Own it.
3. Those things you covet.
These days, every item I am considering to purchase goes through three layers of scrutiny before I actually buy it. First, I ask myself whether it will add value to my life or just be more clutter. If it passes that layer, I see if I can afford it by obsessively comparison shopping online. I look for the best deals and sales anywhere. Lastly, If I manage to find a reasonable or great deal, then I look at numerous customer reviews about that specific product. If all is favorable, then I finally make a purchase. This intense scrutiny cuts out any impulse buying and helps me spend my hard-earned money wisely. Incidentally, this is EXACTLY the process I carried out before buying my now beloved and new noise-cancelling/over-the-ear/hyphen-loving headphones. Even though I might covet several different things, I only actually buy one or two items that are truly useful to me and are available at the best price I can afford. Anything that doesn’t pass these tests does not take up space in my life. I am very cool with that.
I hope these examples give you some idea of how you can cancel some noise out of your life. Living with a purity of purpose is a precious practice to pursue every day. This means that all unnecessary distraction is deemed mute and powerless.
Isn’t this as it should be?