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Donn King


What Happens When I Turn Off the Car Radio

Most people have the radio or some other audio going in the car all the time. I find myself conflicted—the car is usually my only time to listen to podcasts, since there are too many interruptions at home. On the other hand, it is also an opportunity to get some quiet time. I sometimes call my car my rolling chapel.

Today, I made the conscious decision to turn off all audio—no radio, no Sirius XM, nothing playing from my plugged-in phone. Here are some of the immediate effects from that.

Note: I am a long-time experienced meditator. Despite that, I found things like #4 coming up.


Image by PIRO from Pixabay

    1. I noticed that I was noticing my surroundings more—more detail, more vivid color, etc.

    This was an immediate effect. The amount of cloud cover didn't decrease. It stayed the same. But I suddenly noticed how brilliant the colors were in some of the signs and buildings I passed. I think most people use the car audio as a distraction, on purpose though not necessarily consciously.

    2. I could hear myself think.

    I think this may be why so many people keep the audio on, though—so they can't hear themselves think. When I was a kid, I noticed my mother kept the air conditioner running even when it wasn't needed. I asked her why, and in a rare moment of self-awareness she said, "It's for the noise. When it's quiet, I get to thinking. And when I get to thinking, I get depressed."

    Philosopher Blaise Pascal once said, "All the troubles of life come upon us because we refuse to sit quietly for a while each day in our rooms." It's a common human condition.

    3. I drove more deliberately.

    This was partly driving slower. It was more about being in the moment—no feeling of hurry.

    4. Part of my brain kept nudging me to turn something on—pretty much anything!

    Just a passing thought, and since I'm used to meditating and observing my thoughts instead of identifying with them, I just noted this thought. At a lower level of self-awareness, I would easily have just turned on the radio without thinking too much about it.

    5. Most of my stress indicators stayed lower.

    Without going into physiological detail, I can usually quickly assess my physical being and get a good idea how stressed I am. When I got home, I checked those markers and discovered that I was less stressed than usual after making a shopping trip.

    6. When I parked, I enjoyed sitting quietly for a few minutes.

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