A dog in the neighbourhood seems intent on airing its opinions on life while indulging its addiction to the sound of its own voice. Someone, or perhaps a couple of residents will complain; others will say nothing.

Is this a case of intolerance versus tolerance, misunderstanding versus understanding? Or is the complaining an example of misdirected focus compounded by a personal sense of discontent, where blame for one’s frazzled feeling is neatly attributed to the canine town crier?

If the yapping is the cherry on the cake, then perhaps it’s the cake that should be explored for clues to solve disturbances to one’s peace. The ‘cherry’ can take many forms from vacuum cleaners to weed eaters to children’s boisterous play to other peoples’ music. But if there’s no disgruntled cake in the first place, then there can’t be a cherry to top it.

Take the Hadeda Ibis, a bird common to Sub-Saharan Africa with one of the loudest cries to grace the skies. You get those who describe them as noisy bellowing pests. Yet, as a child, I was fortunate enough to hear my mother describe their cry as peals of laughter floating across the sky. That wonderful audio imagery has never left me as I continue to enjoy their mirth.

When environments become noisy, a common despairing bleat is: “There’s so much noise, I can’t think!” But how can that be true, because to verbally or mentally articulate those words, there has to be a thinking process which generally runs along the lines of: “O M G, that dog/weed eater/racket! How can I possibly get my work done with that infernal noise? I simply can’t concentrate. If it doesn’t stop I am going to go out of my mind. Why can’t people keep their dogs under control, invent quiet weed eaters, …? That noise is going straight through my head. I feel like screaming.” So the ability to think is there; it’s just that the choice of topic upon which to build the proceeding thoughts is the one which leads to frustration, suffering and despair.

When one’s attention is focussed in an area of heightened interest, the power of distraction is notably weakened. We all have experienced times of complete absorption in something to the exclusion of everything around us, which is proof enough that we can, if we so choose, direct our focus (and the proceeding thoughts) to a matter that does not upset our equilibrium. Noise, or our interpretation of noise, may not be our choice of surround sound, but if it does occur, and cannot be changed, then what is the point of paying all our attention and energy to an exercise of resistance to that external audio input?

It’s a matter of perception and acceptance. Consider the reason for the ‘noise’. It often involves appreciation and gratitude, if not for you, then for others. For example, you are fortunate to have a garden that is being tended to; or other people are having fun; or the dog is finding ways to alleviate its boredom (suggesting alternatives like regular walks or toys to the owners may help). If you cannot avoid or stop the noise, then the mere acceptance of it, without resistance, immediately releases you from the snare of frustration-building thoughts and frees you to focus on whatever pleases you.

Your focus is your choice.

 

 

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