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Emptying the Noise Bucket

Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.

Mary Oliver, The Old Poets of China

We’re all busy, and compounding our generally hectic lives, the world wants our full attention. It throws attention-grabbing headlines, distressing developments, and plenty of opinion about all of it at us and wants us to join the maddening chorus. Surely these are troubling days that shouldn’t be ignored. And as citizens of the world we must pay attention and work to improve our general lot. But, like our mobile devices that long ago became an extension of our brains, we should never forget to recharge our batteries regularly.

“To become empty is to become one with one with the divine—this is the Way.” — Aza Kenzo

When our focus turns to the noise outside we don’t hear our inner voice. We lose our compass heading. We miss a beat. And in that lapse our best work—our purpose, suffers. We must empty the bucket of noise and fill the void with silence. Luckily, solitude is just a walk or a garden full of weeds away. Simply leave that phone behind, step away from the noise and listen to yourself for awhile. We don’t owe the world all of our time, no matter how much it insists upon it.

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The thing is, that bucket of noise is going to keep filling up, no matter how much we try to empty it. As Mozart structured his symphonies, we ought to structure the music of our own lives. The magic isn’t in the noise at all, but in the silence in between. If we wish for more magic in our lives, if we wish to compose something that transcends the chatter of everyday life, if we simply wish to reset our jittery compass, then we must empty the noise bucket and dance with the silence left behind.

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