When Noise Wakes You Up, Listen Within to Restore Balance

by Judy Stone-Goldman on May 15, 2013

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[youtube]http://youtu.be/XbVZ7iniO_o[/youtube]I awoke to a lot of noise this morning. The birds. Always the birds. Right around 4:15 a.m. they start. First it’s one bird, innocent little chirps. Then, quickly, others join in, and suddenly there is cacophony. I feel guilty describing it as such — I should be grateful: that my home is in an area rich with greenery and havens for birds, that birds thrive despite pollution, that birds’ voices rise above cars and other sounds of civilization. But once the birds start their chatter, so does my mind.

I awaken, and one thought pops up. Then, quickly, another thought joins, then another, and suddenly there is cacophony within. My mind is imbalanced, ungrounded; thoughts bounce around like balls in an arcade game. I want to set the clock back, to get a do over, to luxuriate in the meditative morning space between dreaming and wakefulness. I want to feel sleep still within my bones and stillness in my mind. But it is too late for that.

A noisy mind is not a problem solely of an abrupt waking. At any time a thought can intrude and take hold, nagging, demanding, insisting. What does the thought want? Perhaps it signals a story that wants to be told. Perhaps it sends a warning (don’t you remember the last time you did that? what are you thinking?!). Perhaps it is stuck to an emotion that needs freeing.

I would prefer to go back to sleep, but I have passed that point. I pull out my notebook and do some mental housekeeping. I give voice to those thoughts. I ask them questions, invite them to elaborate, ask them their mission, their goal. I let them take me to the next thought, and the next; perhaps I find memories, perhaps I am surprised by feelings. And suddenly, I start to get a picture within, more than noise and more than looping thoughts. Maybe more than words. As order replaces internal clutter, I discover balance.

The sun rises in the hazy morning, and sunlight shares space with shadows. The beauty of silence fills me, and I take pleasure in hearing a single bird tweeting.

Questions for Reflection: When do you notice a noisy or cluttered mind? How do you respond to intrusive or repetitive thoughts? What changes do you notice in yourself when you allow space for your thoughts to unfold?

Writing Prompts: “When I awaken to repetitive thoughts, I know I need ______” (then keep writing); “My best strategy for dealing with intrusive thoughts is to ______” (then keep writing); “If I give myself space to explore repetitive thoughts, I discover ______” (then keep writing); “I can restore myself to balance by ______” (then keep writing).

 

 

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean Hamilton-Fford
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 8:33 am

Hi Judy! I have learned, over time, to quieten my noisy thoughts through cultivating breath. If after that exercise, these thoughts persist, I know it is because it is related to my projects, my purpose, my calling and I allow myself to listen more intently and begin typing.

I cannot write with pen and paper as my hands no longer have grip strength required to do that task. I can, however type. So, fingers to keyboard and capture thoughts in words and do some automatic writing in that capacity.

The birds wake me as well. They filter through even the earplugs I wear to sleep. I do love that time between sleep and waking and find that is the time that my thoughts encourage me to rise and get busy. I love my noisy thoughts and cultivating breath and my dreams. They are wonderful ‘friends’ to entertain. Love, light and blessings! ♥

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 9:41 am

Hi Jean, So glad to get your inspiring thoughts. You obviously are friends with your internal world! I keep a notebook by my bed and turn to it at various times, but I use keyboard as well and sometimes find it better for capturing rapid, tumbling thoughts. Cultivating breath–a good reminder, as I often forget to turn to simple breathing and awareness. Thanks so much for the comments.

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Vicki Dello Joio
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 9:36 am

Ahh, the brain mutter instigated by the sounds of birds. Even here in semi-urban Oakland, I awaken to bird sounds. Although this AM, over shouted by drilling. Your prompts, inspiring as always, are now calling me to write about what am I drilling down into today as I move towards a very demanding weekend. Do you use early morning journaling (morning pages?) daily or only when your thoughts are mimicking bird chatter?

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 9:44 am

Good morning, Vicki, I so welcome your thoughts and metaphors. I strive to write every day in a way that brings me into myself. Some days it’s in the morning, other days at later times. At certain points in my life I was religious about morning journaling–had it woven into my daily ritual and couldn’t imagine moving forward into the day otherwise. As my schedule has become more flexible, I find myself having several different subroutines. But nothing grounds me the way the writing does.

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Donald J. Decker May 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I generally notice that my mind is noisy and cluttered when I’m in fear. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Hi Donald – I agree that fear can create quite a noise storm in the mind. Thanks for sharing.

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Susan Berland
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 1:20 pm

I often wake in the early morning as well and have a difficult time going back to sleep for the same reasons. It is never the external noise, but the internal noise. Some days I’m able to quiet my mind and others not. Somehow the idea of getting up and writing seems to wakeful when I really want to return to sleep. What often works for me is to focus on my breathing and relaxing the muscles in my face. The next thing I know it’s time to wake up for real!

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Susan, I agree that writing can end up waking me further. I always try to go back to sleep first, but when I fail or if I’m jolted too awake to start, I do enjoy the writing time. I probably need to learn to use some breathing and relaxing tools to counteract that sudden wakefulness. I wrote about the birds waking me (and they do), but I think there are internal causes as well, something interrupting my sleep. Have to work on that!

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arleen
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Waking for me happens slowly. Usually there isn’t much on my mind. Only when I am fully awake do I start thinking and continues until I fall asleep. I need more meditation time. Time to slow down and think about where I am going and who I am. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Arleen, Sounds like you benefit from that time of waking when you are not fully awake – kind of the opposite of the problem I wrote about. But I did write about this in another blog: http://judystonegoldman.com/reflecting-in-the-shared-space-between-the-sleeping-and-waking-worlds/ Thanks for your comment.

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Suzie Cheel
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Love your video, nice touch. When I have a noisy mind, I write or paint- sometimes i go for a walk by the beach- that always stills my mind. Like your writing prompts
Namaste

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Suzie, You are so lucky if you live by the beach. When I visited Florida, I loved a walk along the beach in early morning. I found it incredibly calming. Thanks for sharing.

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Thom Abbott
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I have this problem, but somewhat in reverse. I go to bed and can’t get he noise to stop. I know it’s because I’m right here at my computer until I turn it off, walk down the hall to the bedroom and try to go to sleep. Hard to do…mind is still on full tilt. I TRY to stop early, but it never happens.

I wake up in the morning, and yes, as soon as the wheels start turning, that’s it. I rarely ever fall back to sleep. Once awake, I might as well get up and hit the keys and build a web page or write a blog post.

I can’t imagine being retired……

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Hi Thom, Using the computer before bed has been shown to be a barrier to sleep. I think the light from the monitor does something that counteracts sleep, and of course the mind buzz is another problem. I have learned to shut the computer down a few hours before bed. And when I wake up too early, I avoid going to the computer right away just in case I can go back to sleep. When I fail–well, then bring it on!

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Louise Edington
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I think this post is beautiful Judy. I love how you have taken such a seemingly small moment and turned it into something lyrical. For me, I really miss the loud noise of birds. Here we have birds of course but not as many and not as vocal or pretty. So I get woken up by my alarm at 5.30 and it’s GO from that moment (kids and dogs). My quiet time to write and meditate and still my mind comes 3 hours later when the house is mine again. And that’s exactly what I do 🙂

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Louise, I appreciate that you enjoyed the post! I’m also amazed at how you navigate so much in early morning before you get your private time. My birds start around 4:00, so it’s an earlier alarm than I wish, but I’m grateful I have privacy and flexibility with that time.

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Stephanie Foley
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 9:27 pm

I LOVE waking to the birds – it reminds me of camping or sleeping out under the stars as a kid. When I hear the birds, my thoughts actually subside as I remember the cozy present moment. It’s when I do not hear birds that my thoughts take over with the endless list of things to do or analyze. It never really occurred to me before reading your blog, but I could intentionally imagine birds and evoke the smell of summer morning when my thoughts need to settle down.

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 16, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Stephanie, This is such a lovely association! Maybe if I use your connection I could appreciate those birdsongs and get back to sleep. I went to camp and have some wonderful memories from that. Thanks for helping me reframe those loud birds!

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Pat Zahn
Twitter:
May 15, 2013 at 10:10 pm

The birds always seem to coincide with my morning hot flash…coincidence?

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Hi Pat, Maybe the hot flash wakes you up but the voices of the birds are there to remind you that beauty still awaits you!

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Kathy Gabriel May 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm

This one struck a chord Judy!
Oh, how I love that last line …! That makes all else worth it.
I am getting better at breathing through the early waking ‘noise’. I am tempted to reach for the note pad, but I let it be and let the bird-songs do their work,.. whatever it might be. Then somehow it transforms into a gentle wake-up call … don’t ask me how!

Personally, I have slowed down quite a bit from my usual pace. Maybe my response is just another piece of the puzzle falling into place.
Works for me so far … my natural alarm clock!

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Judy Stone-Goldman
Twitter:
May 20, 2013 at 10:33 am

Hi Kathy, Several people mention using breathing to get through that too-early waking, so I think I’m going to have to work on that. I love the idea of a natural alarm clock, but I’d like to set mine to go off later than it does. 🙂

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Emilia May 20, 2013 at 7:27 am

I always do that! I think it is one of my talents to go deep of a sound that I hear and turns it into an automatic lullaby! It works so much! 🙂

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Stacey May 21, 2013 at 1:22 am

Thank you for your wonderful post! I raelly learned a lot. Hopefully, this helps us readers with this problem. Thank you again and kepp it up!

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Shirley Burke May 30, 2013 at 4:03 am

Waking up to the sound of chirping birds, beautiful! But unfortunately doesn’t last too long. You are absolutely right about the noisy thoughts taking over. Your prompt turned out to be really helpful. I am really glad that I could isolate the repetitive thoughts. This is the first time I am reading your blog, but from now on, will always look forward to reading more. Thanks a lot Judy. God Bless.

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Melody Richardson June 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I’m relatively new to all this and I have to say, the tips you have work like a charm. I love how you suggest that the voices of the birds is a reminder of the beauty that awaits. I’m still trying to have better control over my focus when repeating thoughts but hopefully I’ll be able to get there sooner than later.

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Mike Huiwitz August 10, 2013 at 2:24 am

What I do is I close my eyes and rid my mind mind of all thoughts and worries, one after the other, until I’m feeling sleepy again.

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