“You live with that every day?” I ask in disbelief.
“Pretty much,” the man facing me acknowledges quietly.
Having bumped into a peripheral acquaintance, whom I know to be both reticent and kindly, we happen upon the conversational topic of “head noise,” while discussing the practice of formal meditation.
“Head noise” is the background soundtrack running like an accompanying bassline to our lives which many of us experience during mental downtime.
The soundbites for our individual soundtrack are often a jumble of statements or words from pivotal situations we have experienced with parents, extended family, guardians, peers or mentors. If we are fortunate enough to have had supportive people and circumstances around us, during our formative years, a positive internal soundtrack may actually function as part of a healthy support system, while we venture through life and, most especially, when we encounter difficult situations. Positive “head noise,” if you will, can actually function as the internal voice of encouragement which causes us to persevere in the face of adversity, while sustaining us.
Yet, many of us are challenged to proceed with our daily routines with a less-than-optimal soundtrack as a backdrop to our lives. Some of us are even working to swim upstream against a wholly unsupportive or abusive set of sentences and words, which are constantly trying to bleed through—even while we may be living what appear to be extraordinary lives with an externally charmed set of circumstances.
“How do you manage to behave in manner so contrary to what is going on in your head?” I finally ask the man with whom I have been talking.
“Well,” the man replies thoughtfully “I figure, why harm someone else? I know these words are my parents’ words and that they have done enough harm to me already. I know where these sentences are from. Why should I visit these painful words—my pain—on someone else?”
“Do you ever get any relief from this soundtrack?” I ask him out of compassion.
“No, not really,” he responds matter-of-factly.
It is late in the day. It is time to go.
We say a few closing words to one another, and I leave with a new conception of the word “hero.”