How To Find Quiet Time With A Busy Mind
Hell is a real place. It’s just that everyone has a different hell. Some people call it Times Square. I call it hell.
I’m partly kidding but generally I go out of my way to not have to walk through it.
Don’t get me wrong Times Square is actually quite a sight. Bright lights, lots of activity, people in superhero costumes. At night the lights shine so bright that it almost feels like the middle of the day. I would never suggest to anyone to not go there, but you probably shouldn’t spend an entire day there. It’s noisy and it gives me a headache.
Is it possible to get some peace and quiet around here? Where are you supposed to go when it’s too much? Where do you go when there’s too much noise? First you have to figure out where the noise is coming from, what kind of noise is it? It could mean the noisy surroundings of wherever you happen to be or it could mean the constant chatter between you and yourself, the thoughts that go a million miles a second.
I used to have these recurring dreams about someone from the past that could ruin my entire day. I would wake up in a state of confusion and let it sink deep into my psyche. I would analyze it, dwell on it, sometimes try to go back to sleep to get back into the dream, and sometimes try to go back to sleep to quiet the anxious thoughts that became present in my woken state. They were so real and vivid that the mere image of that person would send my mood spiraling downward. I had one of those dreams very recently and just as it had in the past my head started to fill up with noise. I became suddenly, and very intensely, depressed and anxious. I tried to go back to sleep but I couldn’t. I could not get there. In the past I have seriously let these things keep me in bed damn near all day.
The mind is the one room in your house you can’t leave. When you’re filled with anxiety it can be very hard because all you want to do is leave. A lot of times my mind would feel like a room where the walls were closing in. When it became too much I would do something irrational like say something that I would later regret or I would do something impulsive like drive to Saratoga on a whim and leave my phone in Syracuse so no one could bother me. It all made sense to me at the time. I didn’t know how to deal with it so I would reason and rationalize my way through ridiculous behavior. There are times where I would have given anything just to be able to step outside myself or turn my brain off for 5 minutes so I could catch a breathe.
One thing that you should do is just get up and go. Seriously sometimes it’s that easy. Leave the room you’re in and it will make you feel as though you have left your mind, or at least it’s current ramblings that are making you upset, in that room. Every place you go is a different state of mind and changing your immediate environment is a great way to take control of yourself. I have found that one of the best ways to get away from that downward spiral is to just get up and leave. After my dream that’s what I decided to do. I got up, got dressed, and walked out the door. I had no real plan other than just getting outside and within 20 minutes I was at a bookstore buying a copy of Crime and Punishment for three dollars and had forgotten all about what I was so upset about in the first place; most likely nothing at all. A lot of people have a hard time just getting up in the morning but once they’re out there the world presents an entirely new set of possibilities and opportunities.
When the bright lights and constant stimuli start blinding you, when you can’t stop the chatter, when your thoughts are bumping into each other and won’t get out of the way then it’s time to leave Times Square. You have to get out of there and find a quiet little spot in your own Central Park.
I mean this of course both metaphorically and literally, symbolically and seriously. Often times quieting your mind and quieting your physical space work naturally together. Running outdoors is a form of meditation and concentration that requires a change in environment and even comes with a bonus: you’re always moving forward. If you’re at work and it’s very busy and you can’t leave then a simple 2-minute meditation and focused breathing might do the trick. There are so many ways people practice this that we are all familiar with; meditation, running, crocheting, reading, and fishing.
A few days ago I went to Central Park to get some good reading time in and on such a beautiful day of course there was going to be a lot of people. I walked and walked searching for my own little quiet space to read and reflect. I walked from the southeast corner of the park up through the Great Lawn and to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. While I was behind the Met I was sitting on a bench reading when a trio of what seemed like college girls started arguing with each other. “GIVE ME THE FUCKING KEY!” And then the other one: “GO AWAY.” “I CAN’T GO BACK TO THE HOTEL WITHOUT THE KEY!” They went on and on and on about how the first two never wait for the third one and this one has no friends and that one always wanders of. So you get it right? I couldn't stand it anymore. I couldn’t get through the next sentence of my book so I got my ass up and walked around the bend where I found a solo cellist playing under the bridge.
I love cello. It is by far my favorite orchestral instrument. It’s got just the perfect range from wide bellowing lows to strong singing highs. Solo cello is like a massage for your cochlea. I could not have conjured up a better setting to be honest with you. I sat there for the next 2 hours just reading and listening. Just before I left, the cellist and I shared stories and talked about the instrument. All it took was for me to get up and go for such a positive and unexpected event to take place. Chi Cello is her name and if you’re interested in listening to some of her work you can go to her YouTube page ChiCello Lennon and also check her out on Instagram at @chicellolennonarigato
Don’t spend all your precious hours in Times Square.