We all know how important music is when watching a movie - whether it’s the swelling orchestra music that lets you know when love is in the air, the poignant cello that informs you that someone is on the brink of death, or the ominous Satanic chanting in the Omen that announces evil is nigh. Similarly, when one of the most recognizable cinematics scores of all times begins with that rhythmic alternating two notes from Jaws, you know something very bad is about to happen. The music cues us for how we should feel.
If you turn the sound down, the experience is completely different. Especially for some of those old movies where there’s no CGI, and the scenes really build and mount towards an epic event.
It's the same for the soundtrack of our life, or more accurately the soundtrack of our mind. There's so much noise in there that is mostly about what’s about to happen. It’s about anticipation. I recently read an account of a study that was conducted where the subjects were told that they would be given a hot plate that would get continuously hotter and possibly burn them (slightly). Half the group were people like you and me, and the other half were meditating monks. The brain scan for regular folks went crazy as soon as a warm plate was put in their hands, because they were already anticipating being burned! For the monks, the scans barely show any activity, because they were basically taking things as they came and not already in anticipatory fear.
Anticipatory fear. I just made that up. I think that’s when you’re deep in worry mode. I like Dan Zadra’s quote, “Worry is misuse of imagination”. It’s 100% clear that when you’re in worry mode, you are definitely not in the present moment. You’re taking experiences out of your past and projecting them into the future.
You are, in that moment, literally creating your future out of your past.
So, sometimes when I’m misusing my imagination, and I’m actually aware of it, I like to say that I’m trying to mute the soundtrack of my mind. My goal is getting to mute. I feel like meditation, and yoga, and forest bathing are all practices that are effective in muting the Jaws refrain of my own mind. And, practice is the key phrase here. I don’t get it right every time, maybe even most of the time. Sometimes I just can’t get settled enough in meditation to stop thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner and composing my shopping list. Staying in the present moment and getting to mute is not for the faint of heart.
I had an experience this week along these lines that I’d like to share. I was in my own backyard on a sunny autumn day listening to How to Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty while I was cleaning up the garden beds, when an older man appeared in my yard on his bike. He’d recently met my step daughter and was coming by to check on her pregnancy. He was talkative and chatty and I could feel myself energetically begin to tap my toes with impatience. And on and on he went when all I wanted to do was get back to listening to How to Think Like a Monk. Wait, What? Light bulb! Maybe this could be an opportunity to try out being present! So, I muted the soundtrack of my mind, and completely turned all my attention to him. I could feel my shoulders relax, and I became very present with him noticing even small details like how blue his eyes were. Now, because my personal soundtrack was muted, I could actually, really hear him. And he was fascinating! Once I made room for him, we moved beyond neighborly chit chat to share our authentic sides with each other and I learned that he’d worked with the Dali Lama in Ireland, had been a monk in the Four Winds Council in Big Sur, California, and was the youngest delegate for McGovern. Whoa! I met the most fascinating new friend in my own backyard, and I am making plans to snowshoe with him this winter.
I didn’t get the gardening done, but I’m not worried about it.
If this rings a bell for you, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a comment below.