a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Transformative power of our minds and barking dogs

Posted on the July 7th, 2011

Sometimes we learn something in the course of daily living that is just too good to keep to ourselves. So here’s my sharing for the day. It’s about the amazing transformative power of our mind, if we just allow ourselves to make use of it.

Years ago while trying to fall asleep — either for a nap or at bedtime, I don’t remember — some noises outside were keeping me awake. Trying to ignore them was useless. It came to me then that, perhaps, if I tried an opposite approach, it might be better.

So I began to concentrate on trying to hear all the sounds both big and small that it was possible for me to hear in those moments — including the noises. I imagined that they were all coming together to create a sound symphony. All I had to do was accept each distinctive sound/noise I heard into the orchestra.

It worked. The cacophony waned and was replaced by a sense of strange harmony. Very soon I felt asleep. This sound symphony technique continues to serve me well. Maybe it will work for you also.

What brought this to mind today was re-reading the famous poem by Billy Collins that is here below. Collins, being the poet that he is, explores the mind’s transformative power in his imaginatively amusing and insightful way.

Enjoy! (For those who can’t bear the very idea of reading a poem, there’s the video above.)

Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

(Billy Collins)

Reader Comments (4) - Comments are closed
  1. franco said, on July 7th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    I always thought that you are really amazing! In this moment I’m feeling that what you are proposing is very hard, but I’m also recognizing that you are very right: we have to learn how to accept *everything* – that it’s coming to us and to sense in it the very presence of God, it’s love for us.

  2. Alessandro said, on July 7th, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I read the article and I loved it.
    To me, at times, especially in the summer, I like to stand on the balcony listening to the sounds of nature and everything that makes me relax, but I never tried to put together all the noise and imagining an orchestra, but I think I’ll try.

  3. Sam said, on July 7th, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Maybe the neighbors would welcome a place to leave their dog when they are away, say at the annoyed neighbor’s house?

  4. Jennifer said, on July 7th, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    What a great idea! I’m going to try that the next time I can’t fall asleep.