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How to Find Inner Peace in a Noisy, Chaotic City

By Susan Jacobs

Noise makes me crazy. This may sound strange coming from someone who has lived in the heart of New York City my whole life. I’m the neighbor from hell (only on the noise front) and not the best bed-sharing partner because if I even hear breathing, forget about snoring, I can’t sleep.

Finding inner peace, learning to quiet my mind, and detach from such hypersensitivity to noise, remains a life-long challenge.

Yogi Bhajan said,

“Mankind is still seeking to find the peace within so it can have peace without. There shall not be peace in the world if there is no peace in the heart of the man. There is not going to be peace in your heart if you do not understand and experience your very relationship with your soul.”

But it’s so noisy…how can I possibly connect with my soul? Therein lies the rub; wherever you go, there you are.

I realized that while there is street and city noise all around, what’s more disruptive is the seemingly never-ending self-generated noise that I create in my head all by myself.

Chatter, chatter, chatter, stories, excuses, more stories, thoughts of the past, fear of the future, self-doubt, insecurity, loneliness, monkey mind, and that’s just the appetizer!

Years ago, a Swiss friend moved to the Big Apple and couldn’t sleep because of the noise. After a few years, he grew so used it that when he went to the Caribbean on vacation it was too quiet; he could no longer sleep in silence. In 1982, he made a six-minute cassette (long before CDs) of city noises - sirens, horns, jackhammers, music, talking, garbage trucks, and more, for city people who couldn’t sleep in the country.

What began as a gag, became the hit gift for Christmas that year with Bloomingdales and Bendel’s selling over 250,000 copies! Clearly, he wasn’t the only New Yorker programmed to noise.

First-hand experience has shown me that through my most un-peaceful, challenging of moments, peace awaits me on my yoga mat. It’s where I can detach from everything; it always welcomes me back. For sure it’s not an easy task, but when I make peace with the process, I find peace.

So why in the friggin world do I avoid yoga and meditation? I leave my yoga mat open at the foot of my bed, hoping that will ensure a daily visit to my practice.

Nope. More chatter, chatter, excuses, blah, blah, blah. It’s exhausting, leaves me in a constant state of unrest, and is just silly.

Inner peace, or lack thereof, has a ripple effect into the world.

In this digital age, we’ve become Pavlov’s dogs. Beep, respond; ring, respond; swoosh, respond. We’re programmed by sounds and behave like robots. I want to go to my mat upon awakening, but instead rationalize to myself, ‘This is the last morning I’ll look at Facebook and my oh so unimportant emails before doing my morning practice.’

Without fail, I fail. Looking at Facebook brings out my best compare-itis storyline. ‘Why does she have a boyfriend and not me? That knucklehead is so successful, what am I doing wrong? I want a vacation too but don’t have the budget. Woe is me, poor thing…’

That’s all before 7am! Good lord! The definition of insanity…repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome…

I know I’m not insane; it’s just so much easier to perpetuate what’s not good for us than to develop healthy habits. It’s easier to see what’s wrong with us than to embrace what’s fabulous about ourselves.

Some days I think I avoid my practice because of unknown pain and sadness that I imagine is buried deep; I think it may be too overwhelming to handle. This is just another storyline that keeps me at arms length from that inner peace.

I learned long ago, however, that the only way out is through. And the rewards on the other side are always well worth it. So no matter what’s buried in the depths of my heart and soul, my mat is where it gets sorted out.

Some use therapy, others use drugs, others prefer avoidance. 

When all else fails, I turn to my breath. It can transform your mental state in a matter of minutes. There are countless breathing techniques, but my perennial favorite is called Inner Conflict Resolver Reflex. With hands over the chest, palms on the torso at breast level, the fingers are pointed towards each other across the chest. Inhale deeply and completely for 5 seconds, exhale completely for 5 seconds, hold the breath out for 15 seconds by suspending the chest motion as you pull in the Navel Point and abdomen. Do this for 11 minutes. It works miracles.

Yogi Bhajan said,

“You live by the breath. You can get everything from your breath of life. Now please speak to your breath. Talk to it. Pray with it. This is a life relationship: you and your breath. You can achieve what you want, just relate to your own breath of life. That is God in you. Never breathe unconsciously and never waste a breath on negativity. Feel (the breath) in your consciousness, feel it in your body. Feel it in the mind, and the soul will awaken.”

The only things truly under our control are our thoughts, feelings, emotions, the actions we take, and our breath. We have the simplest solution within our own body, accessible 24/7 when we get out of our own way. It’s called a nose! Breathing is a required activity for life, so why not use it for all the good it can bring.

Imagine a world where we all used our breath to find peace; imagine that ripple effect.

"Inhale deeply with reverence, love, compassion, and kindness. Communicate with your breath that it must give you peace of mind, peace on the mother planet Earth, and peace and oneness with God and His (Her) creation." 
-Yogi Bhajan, 5/13/92

Giving voice to things that matter is the heart and soul of who Susan Jacobs is and what she does. Susan is a writer, storyteller, strategist, and world traveler. With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, communications, and business experience, she works helps clients stand out in the marketplace. Susan is a published author and contributed to the book "Pain, Purpose, Passion: That Was Then, This is Now" and the upcoming, “Step Forward and Shine.” She has a book publishing deal with The Round House Press and is working on her first memoir. She is a contributing blogger for Huffington Post, Yogic Living, Thrive Global, and Identity Magazine, and her writing has appeared in FourTwoNine Magazine, Extreme Sailing Series Official 2018 Guide Magazine, Aquarian Times, Spirituality & Health, PR Week, and IndieWire. She has traveled extensively and prefers off-the-beaten-path places that require a passport. Find Susan at www.bluezanconsulting.com