A rogue question skittered through my mind the other day and has roamed around freely since then. Sometimes it happens when a concept flaps its wings a little too loud and draws my attention. Sometimes it comes on tiny mouse feet looking for a piece of cheese.
When the question flashed by, I wore my headphones, which I do during work sessions or when I need to concentrate without distraction. I had the added reinforcement of the white noise generated by the fan in my office/bedroom. A voice broke through the barriers asking me a question related to that night’s dinner.
After I pulled out of that inner world and answered, the concept made its mad dash from ear to ear, taking the shortcut through the brain. Was I “tuning in” to my work or simply “tuning out” everything else?
I’d never really thought about the paradoxical nature of the phrase “tuning in”. Now, I was forced to address it. Tuning in is a mutually exclusive concept. The same is true of tuning out. And yet, they are also mutually inclusive, since neither can exist without the other.
One cannot tune out incoming sensory data without tuning in or focusing concentration on a specific target subject. They are a yin/yang pairing of the highest order. According to one’s definition and perspective, they could also be called a positive/negative pairing.
So, what does this have to do with anything of importance? Well, I can give you a concrete example with what effect it has on me in the waking world.
If I’m at the computer, I generally wear headphones. I tend toward hypersensitivity to changing conditions in my living environment. Noise from outside the apartment, movement of those inside the apartment, telephones ringing, radio playing, etc. all distract me easily. Headphones with soft music playing and my small room fan drown out everything else and my concentration level goes up. I can work unimpeded.
Take me out of the home environment to a coffee house, for instance, and the opposite is true. I can tune those extraneous noises out and work without being bothered at all, unless there’s very loud mechanical noise in the background.
Put me in a restaurant, though, and the noise of other diners—say, families with screaming kids—and it drives me round the flagpole, tosses me to the edge of the bend in the road, and then, stomps me flat. I can’t tune out or tune in, in that situation. I merely get frustrated.
I suppose the fact that my ability to use either mental device is dependent solely on the environment involved and it surprised me.
Meditation, in great measure, is the ultimate experience of tuning in/tuning out. One tunes out the external world in order to tune into the inner recesses of mind and body. The tug-of-war between those two factors makes the practice difficult for some.
Having always been sensitive to noise and movement, I came to prefer the quiet long ago. Loud doesn’t impress me. Neither does it inform me. Loud has spread from the occasional need to world dominance, for no other apparent reason than to outshout the guy standing next to you. Finding peace close at hand has become a quest of questionable possibilities—at least for me.
So tell me, how do you tune in/tune out? Drop a comment below and share your experience with distractions in the modern world and finding peace in your daily life.
Until next time, a bientot,