Let me present two scenarios:
1) I build in a little extra time for myself in the morning during the week for mindfulness before I start the chaoticness of the day. I tend to do (or try to do) some form of meditation at this time. One of the practices I enjoy, particularly in spring when the birds are active, is just listening and identifying what I am hearing. Birds chirping, a distance train whistle, my wife’s breathing as she sleeps, a car driving by. You get the idea, just pay attention to every sound around you and acknowledge it. It allows you to be present in the time and space you are currently in.
2) I wake up in the middle of the night and as I struggle to fall back to sleep I hear every little single frickin’ noise in the universe. A distance train whistle, a garbage truck, a dog barking, a car driving by. Each noise a loud distraction from my ultimate goal of getting back to sleep.
Technically in both scenarios I’m doing the same thing – listening to the sounds around me. It is funny however that when I want to do it it is a source of relaxation and when I don’t a source of annoyance. The trick will be learning how to transform scenario 2 to scenario 1 the next time it happens.