Someone has emailed me the following question:
“I understand it is important to own your mind, but what if you live next door to really noisy people who drive you crazy and make you lose you sleep? I cannot help thinking that the people who write these books have big detached houses so they already have a peaceful environment at least.”
It is not always possible to be in control of your environment, and therefore it is not always possible to live in a peaceful environment, but you can teach yourself to ignore noise and distractions. This is possible, and I know this from personal experience. On the plus side, when you learn to meditate or calm down your mind in an environment that is not quiet, and ignore the noise and distractions, you actually develop your inner strength in the process, and gain more inner power, will power self discipline and a sense of satisfaction.
There are several things you can do when you live in a noisy environment:
1. You can go and speak with your neighbors, and ask them to be a little quiet. If you think they will not listen to you, then visualize yourself speaking with them politely, but with confidence and authority, asking them to be quiet. See them being polite and nice, and telling you they are going to be less noisy. Do so for a few days, and then go and speak with them. This visualization will make you more confident and your neighbors will be more willing to accept what you are asking.
2. You may also visualize yourself living in a quiet and happy environment. Do so with the belief that this can happen. Sooner or later something will change, either your neighbors get less noisy, they will move, you will move, or the noise will stop bothering you.
3. If possible, consider moving to quieter surroundings.
4. While it is true that a quiet environment is important for attaining inner peace, one can attain inner peace even in a noisy environment. Not everyone can afford to own a big detached house, or leave everything behind, and go and live in an ashram or a monastery. With the proper mental attitude, ambition, dedication and self discipline, one can attain inner peace wherever he or she happens to be, in a quiet environment or a noisy environment.
A certain spiritual teacher has said that a beginner in meditation is easily distracted even by the noise of a needle falling on the ground, but when well trained, one can meditate in the middle of the noisy market, without being distracted.
You can choose to let noise distract and annoy you, but you can also choose to train yourself to stay patient and calm, and to learn to ignore noises when you are not in a position to remove them.