Three years ago, my partner and I relocated from New Orleans, Louisiana to Los Angeles, California for a series of film projects. While I was happy to be here, and experience new surroundings, making the transition from the muggy Gulf Coast to the dry weather of the West was quite significant. I never, ever, thought I’d miss gray overcast days and constant humidity so very much. –but most of all, I found that the noise level of the city was one of the most difficult things that I’d have to get used to enduring.
When in NOLA, we were living only a block off of Canal Street on Loyola Avenue, so I was used to the constant sounds of city life. I believe that New Orleans in itself is the epitome of jazz. Whether it was the sound of speeding sirens, honking horns in traffic, the tinging of the street cars, blaring brass bands, or joyful parading and the general revelry of locals and tourists that fills the city 24/7, even at its noisiest and most hectic, New Orleans maintains a musicality at all times. –and I’ve never appreciated this more until living elsewhere. Compared to the melodic street symphony of the Big Easy, Los Angeles is the equivalent of a horrendously screechy tune up of an orchestra before the show is set to begin. (Sorry LA, but it’s true.)
As I write this there is a woman standing on our street corner who has been yelling furiously into a bullhorn, non-stop, for over four hours now, while police helicopters and military aircraft buzz so low that the walls seem to vibrate. Constant wailing of fire trucks and ambulances, blaring horns, squealing brakes, revving engines, pounding jackhammers and angry or deranged individuals screaming on the streets, this is what a normal day sounds like here. There is no parade, there is no protest or event, but the sustained noise pollution is unlike anything I’ve ever personally experienced (including in New York or Chicago, which I feel both maintain their own type of musicality, too.) It's truly enough to drive you bonkers if you let it. So, how are we supposed to find solace when we have to live in cities or environments like these that are not conducive to achieving or maintaining peacefulness?
First off, you have to understand that this is ultimately a big part of The Gotcha Game. These sounds are trying to stress you out, and it's solely up to you not to let them. You have to fight back by finding, and sustaining a level of inner solace that can not be shaken even when the world is going nutty around you. You have to be able to be and create your own peace no matter where you are or who you are with. Being at peace must become a constant. If your inner-peace becomes an unwavering constant, then nothing random that comes along will be able to shake you. This is real strength.
So, how do we do this? Like anything worthwhile, finding and maintaining inner-peace takes practice. Whether you are in a big city, sitting on a noisy plane or trapped in bumper to bumper traffic with a crying toddler, sometimes we can not completely shut the world out, so we have to learn how to improvise during these stressful moments through mindful breathing in order to create inner stillness, and deliberately slow down any racing thoughts to avoid giving in to a reactionary fluster up. Once you spend time and effort towards maintaining a quiet and peaceful mind, it will become more and more effortless and automatic. I like to refer to this as achieving a “walking meditation.” As you begin to get your mind under control, at the same time, we can also take steps to help our outer world become more palatable.
As a means to combat the chaoticness going on outside of my condo, I find that putting on calming jazz or other instrumental music that is smooth and relaxing helps to prevent any frenzied energy from being able to infiltrate and negatively affect me or my mood.
In any situation, calming music can be used as medicine, as it is a balm for the body, mind and spirit. –but it must be the right kind of music. You see, one of the most powerful elements of nourishment that we encounter on a daily basis is sound. If we are continually surrounded by stressful noises, like manic city sounds, screaming children, or arguing and shouting (whether at home or in our workplace), this takes a toll on our physical bodies, mental condition, health and spiritual wellness. This also extends to the music we listen to, especially if we are already experiencing stress, anger, anxiety or depression. The healing power of music is universally recognized, but this is also understood by Dark energetic forces who have exploited and hijacked music, and the music industry in order to turn sound into a psychological weapon that can be used to mind control, trigger, scramble and emotionally torment us. As this is our current reality, it becomes evermore important to only listen to music that is uplifting, positive or calming. When we listen to music that is a-melodic, frenzied, or contains angry and hate-filled lyrics, if we are already experiencing stress or low states of mind, we can easily become more agitated, upset and flustered. An easy example of this is if we are stuck in stand-still traffic, listening to intense music is more likely to contribute to us experiencing instances of road rage and increasing our frustration. As the goal is to be happy, peaceful and calm, we should only be listening to music that supports this way of being. –and the same goes for anything we engage with visually.
When we read books and watch news programs, TV shows or movies that depict violence, war, rape and torture, these occurrences are in fact traumatic to our psyche. These types of scenes elicit emotional responses in the brain and body that are distressing, and even though we are not experiencing these events in the physical, we are experiencing them energetically. It is in this way that these energetic or imagined experiences go on to create increased stress and instances of subtle emotional fragmentation. As we are exposed to these types of energetic traumas, a form of dissociation occurs and allows us to cope by writing off these visuals as being “not real,” separate from us and even entertaining. In addition to increasing our stress levels, continually reading, listening to or watching this type of content also contributes to us becoming numb or unaffected by scenes of violence or emotional abuse, and we become increasingly unempathetic in real life situations. As with sound, it is very important to surround ourselves with happy, pleasant and uplifting visuals in order to maintain inner-peace. One of the best ways to do this is through observing nature, such as watching birds and wildlife, or admiring beautiful gardens. –but if you are currently a city dweller like me, sometimes this can be hard to accomplish.
Keeping in line with the concept that energetically there is no difference between what you watch on a screen, and what you experience in real life, My partner and I began putting live YouTube nature feeds on our TV during the day while we worked. Now, the chaos of the city outside is masked by the sounds of birds, bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks and all sorts of other woodland creatures, paired with a soundtrack of upbeat instrumental music. Although you don't get the full experience of sitting in a lawn chair with the breeze on your face as you watch these little creatures scurry about, you do get treated to many sights and sounds that add to your peacefulness and make you smile throughout the day.
Here are a few other ways that can help increase the peacefulness of your surroundings:
- Planting Peace - Having fresh cut flowers and greenery indoors helps bring the joy and beauty of nature closer to you. In an effort to make the most out of our small outdoor space, we are also working on a balcony makeover, that includes a small garden of herbs and vegetables where we can relax, feel more grounded and enjoy a bit of sunshine, or stargaze at night.
- Befriending the Birds - There are large populations of birds in the city, and like us, many times our feathered friends are not getting adequate nourishment due to competition and lack of available food or green space. You’ll even regularly see these birds eating garbage out of the gutter. To help them out, we hang hummingbird feeders on our balcony, and put bird seed down where the pigeons and doves congregate. This aids them by supplementing their diet, and brings us a lot of happiness from being able to admire them throughout the day, and watch them flourish.
- Keeping Clean - The city can be a grimy and gross place. –and as uncleanliness attracts low or negative qualities of energy, it is important to keep your own personal surroundings (and your body) clean and tidy so that positive energy can more freely flow to you, and through your home.
- Add Water - When it all gets to be too much, add water. Whether it's stopping to enjoy a soothing cup of tea, or retreating to take a quiet shower, water can help you drift back into a better state of mind. One of the ways I use water is at bedtime by putting on rain sounds while I fall asleep. This gives me something steady to concentrate on, instead of the noise outside, and has improved my quality of sleep tremendously. I also find that putting on the sounds of ocean waves during the day has the same type of calming effect, too.
- Sharing Peace - Even with so many people around, the city, and world in general, can be a very lonely place. In any way you are able, find ways to share your own peace with others. Whether it's giving a meal to someone in need who is living on the streets, or simply saying “have a good day” to a neighbor in the elevator, little moments of kindness can make a big difference in the lives of others, and this actually helps increase the overall peacefulness of an entire area.
However you go about finding and creating your own sense of solace and tranquility while coping with the craziness of life, remember you truly do become what you watch, and what you hear. So, make an effort to watch and hear good things, and increased peacefulness will follow.
*As of this writing, the City of Angel’s gifted us with two quiet mornings canopied by overcast gray skies, and a block party complete with a marching brass band. Thank you LA!
Here are a few of my favorite Youtube links for enhancing daytime peacefulness: