Mantras for Enduring Loud Inane Noise
May 14, 2014 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I am about to move from a very quiet corner of my large shared apartment, to a very loud, high traffic area where I will be unable to escape from television noise and very loud people. What are some phrases or slogans which I can repeat to myself regularly, so that I can be as calm and non-judgmental and non-rage-y as possible?

I will be leaving the very peaceful back of my apartment, to move to the social center of the apartment. There will be television (and its incessant, dystopic commercials) blaring inches from my plywood wall, and people chatting in perpetual 'uptalking' cadences. These two things are particularly crazy-making for me, and make me irrationally insane with frustration and rage. But in exchange, I will have access to sunlight and air, rather than mold and dark. I am desperate to make it work.

I am specifically looking for little phrases that I can repeat to myself over and over. The most important thing for me is not to eat myself alive with anxiety and pointless frothing anger and frustration over this.

So maybe phrases that pull up feelings of 'It's nice that others are enjoying themselves rather hiding quietly in their rooms. The world would be much more boring if everyone did that,' 'Capitalism can't last forever and someday these toxic non-stop commercials will not be a thing anymore,' 'There are societal reasons behind people 'uptalking' and there is no reason to be creeped out by it. It's just an unpleasant thing, but no need to let it make you insane,' and maybe some "Let it go," "Detach," "Focus on yourself and what you are or aren't doing in this moment" kinds-of-things. But any ideas for phrases are very welcome. I just need to combat or alter my reactionary energy, and replace my instinctive thoughts with different thoughts. Many, many thanks for any ideas.

Also, I have a white noise machine, and I will probably buy another one. But it will never be quiet in there.
posted by thegreatfleecircus to Human Relations (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who is sensitive to noise and annoying voices/speech patterns (vocal fry makes me homicidal), I sympathize. I can't talk myself out of my annoyance. I've resorted to noise-cancelling headphones piping in soothing sounds of my choice and avoidance when possible.
posted by SpecialSpaghettiBowl at 8:59 AM on May 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you watch the Simpsons? Not to be flippant, but repeating to myself "Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean" in Miss Hoover's voice helps, and it makes me laugh as well.
posted by Melismata at 8:59 AM on May 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think that this quote from Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh might do wonders for you, and remind you of what is important.

Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile.

A calm body can be just as important as a calm mind during this time. Calm them both.
Breathe in.
Breath out.

Get yourself out from between your ears where anxiety lives, and get into your heart, your lungs, your chest, your smile, where your understanding and compassion live.

Take a walk when you need one.
Maybe save up to move to a quieter apartment.

posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 9:00 AM on May 14, 2014 [12 favorites]

Seconding conscious breathing. There's a reason it's so widely prescribed as a meditative practice.

(And I say that as someone who shares your precise opinion of, and reaction to, TV advertising. "Dystopic" is exactly the word.)

Alternately, start getting into podcasts. MeFi is a treasure trove of podcast recommendations to fit just about anyone's interests.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 9:13 AM on May 14, 2014

I got into meditation a couple of years ago to help me deal with a crazy-making situation. The passage I chose is "Finding Unity" by Lao Tzu. I think the first 8 lines in particular might be good for your situation:

Those who know do not speak;
Those who speak do not know.
Stop up the openings,
Close down the doors,
Rub off the sharp edges.
Unravel all confusion.
Harmonize the light,
Give up contention:
This is called finding the unity of life.

When love and hatred cannot affect you,
Profit and loss cannot touch you,
Praise and blame cannot ruffle you,
You are honored by all the world.

If you're interested in actual meditation, you might start with books by Eknath Easwaran.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:15 AM on May 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Suffering = pain + lack of acceptance.

If you mentally fight the existence of the noise ("it shouldn't be this way! It should be quiet!!") then you will be angry. So when you feel anger building, think of it as resistance to what is.

Sorry to get all zen on you like that, but I've found it works for me.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:33 AM on May 14, 2014 [17 favorites]

I found mindfulness meditation vastly increased my tolerance for ambient annoyances like that. When the people in the cubicle next to me are loudly discussing the HIMYM finale or "that Heartbreak virus," or a car alarm is going off outside, or whatever, I still feel frustrated and annoyed, but because of the skills I've practiced while meditating, I can stop and say to myself, "ah, look, I'm frustrated. My stomach and shoulders are getting tense. I'm grinding my teeth." Cultivating a curious, analytical distance from your emotions is a great way to keep them from sweeping you off your feet.

I don't know if I'm explaining it very well. David Cain has written a lot about tolerating unpleasantness, and he's a lot more eloquent than I am. Here are a few articles you might find helpful.
posted by Zozo at 9:43 AM on May 14, 2014

Joining the chorus of "mindfulness." My body still tenses up when intrusive noise is near me; I feel assaulted. But I'm not actually being assaulted, and I can relax my muscles and breathe deeply and regularly and the noise is just noise, loud but not "inside me."

Try reading various authors -- some will resonate with you more than others. I love Pema Chodron, and Lao Tzu (there's a magical translation by Ursula Le Guin), and Thich Nhat Hanh.

But one thought I want to give you, and I'm positive the wise persons listed above would agree with me: you are giving yourself an amazing gift. All that noise and irritation to practice on! I'm dead serious about this; all the rest of us have to make time to practice mindfulness, and then something knocks us off balance and we have to struggle to regain ourselves. But it's like you're going to be in Olympic training for Serenity. Plus, sunlight and air. You probably won't live there for the next 30 years, so embrace the opportunity. ...... And try to give yourself some time every day in a quiet place (library, empty church, park) just to rest a bit.

posted by kestralwing at 10:00 AM on May 14, 2014

"What a great invention earplugs are."

I don't mean this to be flippant. It's always good to have the option of close-to-complete silence, and when you have them out and end up hearing all the noise then you know that at least it's by choice.

Also consider noise-blocking headphones, because sometimes replacing noise with sounds you actually like does more for your mood than white noise. Or at least it does for mine.
posted by trig at 10:03 AM on May 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "This is what life sounds like. This is what not-hiding sounds like. This is what participating sounds like. It's brighter, here, and way less moldy, and there are people who I have the option of talking to, but I don't have to. All in all, this is a better space than that one, and that's why I'm out here, and this is what being out here sounds like. I feel annoyed right now, but I'm a little less annoyed than I was yesterday, and I'll be a little less annoyed tomorrow."

Seriously, that's pretty close to mine. My neighbors still drive me a little crazy sometimes but it took a month or two for me to really adjust to the fact that I could hear my neighbors at all. I was used to my apartment being quiet. My old neighbor was a nurse who worked long hours and was quiet when she was home. My new neighbors are a family with small children and the walls are thin. It was horrible, as long as my brain was in the place that this was a sound that was intruding on my apartment. It got better as soon as I'd had enough exposure to adapt to the idea that this is just what living in my apartment sounds like, and for right now I like living in my apartment, so it's okay.

If the stuff you repeat to yourself still regards this noise as fundamentally A Bad Thing, it won't help. It needs to be at least neutral, but as best relate it as often as possible to the things about the situation that are good. Not the noise itself, but the stuff that goes with the noise. If possible, every now and then, go talk with those people just enough to remember that the noise is coming from real human beings. Exposure is a thing, mostly--people can get used to freight trains in the middle of the night, I can get used to kids screaming during my TV shows, you can get used to this. And then you'll find a new normal so that if something does really exceed that normal, you'll know to say something.
posted by Sequence at 10:23 AM on May 14, 2014 [11 favorites]

Headphones and meditation are good, but nobody should have to fight against the sound of inane tv or conversation. If I were you I'd find a way to add some soundproofing to the "plywood wall". It can be done cheaply and you don't need major building skills. Feel free to memail me for advice on how to do this.
posted by mareli at 10:37 AM on May 14, 2014

Best answer: You're making value judgments about the specific noises you're encountering, which is giving these noises more power to upset you than things like sirens or freight trains would have. Can you work on letting go of those judgments, or at least find ways of putting them to good use?

Squinching up at the sound of those commercials isn't doing anything for you or society, so maybe when they start to wind you up, you could use that as a cue to put your energy into doing something you feel will help bring about the changes you'd like to see. When your roommates employ intonation patterns that upset you, maybe try to dissect your feelings about it - think about what those patterns are indexing and whether it's actually the sound that bothers you or the personality characteristics you assume they invoke, and then take it further by questioning whether or not your assumptions here are valid ... basically, find ways to make these noises a more neutral stimulus for you.

If you want this in mantra...ish... form, how about something like "My reactions here are telling me something about society, and something about me. What is that? What do I want to do about that?"
posted by DingoMutt at 11:04 AM on May 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

"The money I'm saving by living here is worth it. Also, I'm going to buy myself a favorite beverage."

Because it is cheaper than the quiet area, right?
posted by griselda at 2:02 PM on May 14, 2014

thegreatfleecircus: I just need to combat or alter my reactionary energy, and replace my instinctive thoughts with different thoughts.

I'll add this which is the best description of WHY mindfulness works in this particular situation. The first time I read it, my perception of almost every ambient nose changed drastically:

"Our human perceptual habits are remarkably stupid in some ways. We tune out 99% of all the sensory stimuli we actually receive, and we solidify the remainder into discrete mental objects. Then we react to those mental objects in programmed habitual ways. An example: There you are, sitting alone in the stillness of a peaceful night. A dog barks in the distance. The perception itself is indescribably beautiful if you bother to examine it. Up out of that sea of silence come surging waves of sonic vibration. You start to hear the lovely complex patterns, and they are turned into scintillating electronic stimulations within the nervous system. The process is beautiful and fulfilling in itself. We humans tend to ignore it totally. Instead, we solidify that perception into a mental object. We paste a mental picture on it and we launch into a series of emotional and conceptual reactions to it. "There is that dog again. He is always barking at night. What a nuisance. Every night he is a real bother. Somebody should do something. Maybe I should call a cop. No, a dog catcher. So, I'll call the pound. No, maybe I'll just write a real nasty letter to the guy who owns that dog. No, too much trouble. I'll just get an ear plug." They are just perceptual and mental habits. You learn to respond this way as a child by copying the perceptual habits of those around you. These perceptual responses are not inherent in the structure of the nervous system. The circuits are there. But this is not the only way that our mental machinery can be used. That which has been learned can be unlearned. The first step is to realize what you are doing, as you are doing it, and stand back and quietly watch."

edit: for clarity.
posted by IfIShouldEverComeBack at 5:32 PM on May 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Get some earbud headphones (cheap Sony ones are absolutely fine). Install the "simply noise" app (set to brown noise) on your phone or stream it from their website, and then play a youtube video of gentle morning bird sounds in the background.

Earbuds block most external sounds - Simply noise masks even more - Bird sounds provide a pleasing tickle for your auditory cortex.

You can also try opening your ears (like a yawn) and then do darth vader-style breathing - Very relaxing.

Mantra-wise - "Keep Calm and Carry on" or "it's not going to stop till you wise up" (Amy Mann) or "this too shall pass".
posted by guy72277 at 6:40 AM on May 15, 2014

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