Photo by Troy Mortier

A few weeks ago, I decided to meditate outside, on my deck. It was a beautiful day, a slight breeze rustling through the trees, birds twittering, sky a startling blue, with no clouds. As I was adjusting myself in the special seat I had prepared, with the pillow just in the right place supporting my back, focusing on my breathing, I was startled by loud, terrible noises. I had somehow forgotten the major construction going on next door, where PeaceHealth is building a parking garage, and enlarging a wing of the hospital. Apparently lunch hour was over, and everyone was back at work: jackhammers digging, trucks roaring and beeping as they backed up, hammers banging, cranes dumping loads of concrete. I was furious — filled with righteous anger. How am I supposed to meditate with this awful noise? It’s not fair! They’re ruining this beautiful day, etc.etc. I kept fuming, trying to ignore the noise, and concentrate on my breath.

Somehow, a phrase came to mind: “Make everything the path”. It was suddenly clear that the only thing I had was this moment, and this moment was noise, and it didn’t matter if I liked it or not: this is what was here —right now. How was I going to live this moment?

Photo by Matt Duncan

I could continue to stew and try to meditate anyway. I could go inside and close the windows so the noise was muted. I could meditate later when they stopped working. But I didn’t want any of these — I recognized I just wanted to be mad… I had a right to be mad!

And then I got curious. Was it possible not to be mad? Was it possible to accept the noise — to allow it to be— to let it become part of me —to just listen without judging — to just be there with the noise? Something shifted. I began to distinguish different sounds: to really hear the roaring, the swishing, the beeping, the banging, scraping, screeching, plopping — a whole orchestra of sound. And I could still hear the birds, and the wind, and be acutely aware of the blue sky. And in sinking into the listening and breathing and being, I could feel my forehead relaxing, my jaw unclenching, my shoulders lowering, my toes uncurling. I was actually smiling at how right — how good everything felt. And the longer I listened, the more the noise became just another kind of sound, as natural as a waterfall, a woodpecker, pouring rain.

Photo by Lukasz Rawa

These were the sounds of humanity: men and women doing important, needed work, glad to have good paying jobs to support their families.

I sat my usual 30 minutes, focusing on the sounds, not analyzing or identifying them, just listening, amused and amazed at the sheer variety of tone and texture. I felt powerful and peaceful and alive.

I often meditate outside now. Sometimes there’s noise, sometimes not. Sometimes it’s people talking, or dogs barking; sometimes it’s absolutely silent — a different challenge to accept. There is so much to experience…

Maggie Weisberg