Our new landlords (the house we’re living in was sold back in December) are renovating the house. They’re finishing the garage, putting up drywall, and replacing the floors and windows (not all at once; they’re just wrapping up the garage at this point), which means that I can feel my desk shaking from eight in the morning until seven at night.

How the hell is someone supposed to be zen in the middle of that?

I don’t typically talk about meditation and zen, because I’m not a daily practitioner and the way that I do practice is somewhat heterodoxical. In this case, though, I have something to share.

Silence Does Not Equal Focus

Many people respond to noise by trying to drown it out, but you can never block out everything. Trying to quash every whisper often leads to more stress than learning to hear it without listening, because you’re making yourself react to everything you hear.

When beginners start meditating, they make the same mistake. Rather than detaching themselves from their thoughts, they quash them or run from them. They allow themselves to feel anger or sadness when thoughts occur, rather than letting them pass and appreciating the silence that’s found between them. They chase things that should be waited for, and wait for things that should be chased.

Noise Does Not Equal Distraction

The floor is shaking right now. I can hear and feel every power tool that’s being used. They start early (which makes sense; you want to work while the light’s good) and they work long hours. I could be angry and distracted, but why should I? The noise isn’t hurting me.

A lot of us are used to background noise. Something for our ears so we’re not catching every step or whisper. What we define as background noise, however, can be fluid. Music has a better rhythm than the jigsaw I’ve been listening to, but there’s no reason for me to see it as a threat. Noise is what you let it be.

Zen is What you Make It

Never let someone else dictate where you can find peace. It might be in a quiet room, or a busy coffee shop. Sitting down or on the go, your mind is yours. Breathe.

Today, I’m finding zen in a construction site. Tomorrow, who knows where it will be?