"If you don't like what's happening in your life, change your mind."
--The Dalai Lama

There's a new event in the neighborhood. Every day around 3:30 pm, a neighbor with a new drum set begins practicing -- at full volume. The drummer must be on his deck or screened porch, because there doesn't seem to be any buffer.

Sometimes he practices with a background tape turned up as loudly as I imagine it can be. The combined effect is a bit like Jimi Hendrix on a very bad day and is hard to ignore, especially on warm days when my windows are open. As I sit at my home office computer, trying to compose sage advice, some days I have to concentrate pretty hard.

The music is so loud neighbors three blocks away can hear it. On occasion I hear shouts of "Shut up!!" from nearby homeowners. And I've received emails from others (Where is that drumming coming from? How do you stand it?)

It's pretty interesting as a phenomenon. I mean does this person have any regard for the impact his practice is having on the rest of the neighborhood? Is he aware and doing it anyway? Couldn't he practice in the basement? Does he enjoy being heard, like those cars that go by with the bass so pumped that your own car vibrates if you happen to be nearby?

At first I was outraged, amazed, and disconcerted. How rude! How inconsiderate! Does he think he's the only person on the planet? What if babies are sleeping or people (like me!) are trying to concentrate?

But as my anxiety and frustration increased, I asked myself if there was something I was willing to do to change things instead of just complaining, which tends to cast me in the role of victim. I don't like imagining myself that way. So I think, well, what are my options here, if I don't like what's happening? In this case, I came up with:

  1. 1) Do nothing and continue to complain.
  2. 2) Change my thinking so that the event no longer bothers me.
  3. 3) Go over to my neighbor's house and engage the energy; in other words, talk to the drummer and explain the impact of the sound on me and my work.
  4. 4) Call the police and report a neighborhood disturbance.

I chose Option #2. The catalyst was the idea of "neighborhood." In neighborhoods there is noise. A couple of summers ago, my next-door neighbor took up the saxophone, and I could hear him practicing scales and simple tunes. The sound wasn't always beautiful, but there was something nice about it. It made me feel part of the human family.

What was the difference here? Different sound, different volume, and different music created a very different impact at first. But thinking about neighborhood helped me change my attitude toward the event. Suddenly the outdoor drumming fanatic was not an ogre. I felt kind of lucky to live in a neighborhood where people felt they could express their creative energy.

Now when the drum sounds start rolling through the air, I listen for a moment, smile to myself, and resume my work. I'm still amazed, but I'm no longer outraged or disconcerted. Funny how it no longer interrupts my focus. Funny, and cool.

If Option #2 hadn't worked, I would have chosen #3 next and talked to him -- and that is still an option. Stay tuned. But so far I like this new planet. And I hope he continues to practice!

Author's Bio: 

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict (http://www.unlikelyteachersbook.com) and the award-winning e-zine, Ki Moments, containing stories and practices on turning life's challenges into life teachers. Judy is a black belt in aikido and nationally known presenter, specializing in unique workshops on conflict, communication, and creating a positive work environment. She is the founder of Power & Presence Training and chief instructor of Portsmouth Aikido, Portsmouth, NH, USA. To sign up for more free tips and articles like these, visit www.JudyRinger.com