Stop reading for a moment and listen…
What can you hear? Maybe nothing at first, but tune into your surroundings and suddenly it’s pretty noisy. Far away - the rumble of a distant highway, or an aircraft overhead. A little closer - Birds in the trees, a lawnmower, kids playing, people talking outside, cars passing, rain on the windows. Closer still - a tv or music playing in another room, and any number things humming, beeping, and clicking in the house. Not to mention the person beside you asking why you are suddenly staring into space.
Despite this constant array of sound around us, we rarely notice it. Our brain is looking after us – stopping us from being distracted so we can get on with our day. A scientist might say a brain circuit, controlled by the prefrontal cortex, filters out unwanted background noise by suppressing incoming sensory inputs. A non-scientist might say our ears switch off so we can concentrate better on whatever we’re doing. The same thing happens when we go to bed; as our brain filters out the sounds around us so we can sleep. If there’s suddenly a new or different sound, our brain kicks us into action in case it means danger; otherwise it leaves us alone, in apparent silence.
But what if we decide to reject the brain’s advice? If we deliberately ignore our prefrontal cortex and actively tune into all those sounds we are being made to ignore, we now have an open connection to a curious part of our daily lives that’s largely unnoticed and unexplored.
And this uncharted realm can be a fascinating place. It’s our personal musique concrete - a unique and never-ending soundtrack to our day - a little different each time we listen but always familiar. And after a while we realize it has its own pace and rhythms, slowly changing across a day, or week, or season. Whether you see it as a fun break or a brief meditation, tuning into your soundtrack is a way to take a pause – to connect with yourself and your surroundings a little more – and can be an enjoyable and relaxing time-out from a busy day.