The alarm beeps at 7:30 a.m. You stretch and smile, anticipating an extra 20 minutes to luxuriate in bed, dawdle over a cup of tea or do your relaxation exercises.
A leaf blower has beaten you to it. Never mind. You'll have breakfast first, then meditate. Soon you settle in your favorite chair and take a deep breath.
Neeee neee, neee neeeeee.
You rush to the window. A trash truck, clunking down the street, has stopped too close to that blue two-door parked at the corner. The coupe has started to wail.
Heart racing, you search for your new CD of Cecilia Bartoli singing Mozart. As the mezzo's tones waft through the apartment, you sigh. In relief.
Car alarms. Buses. Blaring TVs. It has been well documented that prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss. And that unwelcome intrusions in the middle of the night, during a meal or amid an important phone conversation can trigger irritability, even anger and hostility.
But what damage to our souls, that part of us that philosopher Thomas Moore in a recent interview called the "source or spring from which our thoughts come, and our ideas and emotions and our response to the world"?
In his bestsellers, "Care of the Soul" and "Soul Mates" (HarperCollins, 1992 and 1994, respectively), Moore's imperative for a healthy, creative life is to nurture our souls.
One way to do that, the author said by phone from his Amherst, Mass., home, is to actively seek quiet. And conversely, to pay attention to noise and its harmful effects.
"One of the prominent aspects of any religious life would be silence and quiet . . . which foster a more contemplative life," said Moore, who spent 12 years in a monastery and now writes and lectures on archetypal psychology, mythology and the imagination. "A contemplative life is a life less caught up in all of our neurotic behavior or hyperactivity.
"Paying attention to noise would be an effective way of dealing with many problems we have. We need to consider sound when we decide where to live, how to make our homes and where to have our office or our desk."
Above all, Moore believes that nature plays an essential role in restoring--and maintaining--balance in our lives. Whenever on tour, especially in a city such as New York, he takes time to visit a neighborhood with trees or spend time at the ocean.
But many stressed-out souls have little time to take a walk in the woods or frolic on the beach. As a result, on-the-run serenity seekers, and/or those desperate to block out noise, increasingly are tuning in to the next best thing: nature on tape. Sales of environmental recordings, which attempt to lull with the sounds of a lapping lake or the whoosh of the ocean, are booming.
But Stephen Halpern, a contemporary keyboardist, author and lecturer on the effects of sound on well-being, cautions that all nature--let alone nature on disc--is not created equal. Positive sounds such as a waterfall or a gentle, rippling lake or a songbird might lend a feeling of safety, he said, while a sea gull might induce melancholy.
Halpern, who has recorded 50 "atmospheric" albums including "Spectrum Suite" and "Inner Peace," added that nature's sound effects also vary according to season and locale. For instance, he said, the wind blowing in a cold Minneapolis hardly rates as soothing whereas a gentle breeze in the trees of North Carolina can be "very opening and very much soulful."
But what of life in Los Angeles? Is it possible to find pleasant sounds amid a city of this density and magnitude?
The following is a sampling of places that largely preclude noisy intervention--and foster a quiet of the inner kind.
* Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine (17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades;  454-4114). With construction on the 19-room retreat finished and work on the 400-seat Temple nearing completion, a weekday visit to the spiritual sanctuary is once again largely peaceful. Circling the lake, there are grassy spots and benches, kiosks containing literature on the teachings of SRF founder Paramahansa Yogananda, a gazebo overlooking turtles and ducks and fish, and at last, a windmill chapel with soft-backed chairs and windows that open easily to the light and air.
Note: The gift shop, with its soothing incense and historical exhibits, opens at 11 a.m.; the chapel at 1 p.m. Best time to visit is the afternoon.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Closed Mondays and some Saturdays.
* A Sunday at the University of Judaism (15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles;  476-9777) is a day spent in contemplation. First stop: The Sondra and Marvin Smalley Sculpture Garden overlooking Mulholland Drive. Permanent works by Jenny Holzer, Sol Lewitt and Anthony Caro rest on grassy knolls surrounded by honeysuckle and brush. Also on site are works on loan by George Rickey, Keith Haring and Gwynn Murrill.
Upstairs is the Ostrow Library. To stroll the narrow aisles of old brown shelves lined with Hebrew, Yiddish and English titles is to journey into antiquity: One can hear one's heartbeat in the silence. Also open is the less than 1,000-square-foot Platt Gallery. This bright space changes exhibits about every six weeks.
Library hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Gallery hours: Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* An expanse of lawn fronts the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Center for Motion Picture Study (333 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; reference calls:  247-3020). But traffic noise renders an outdoor sojourn impossible. Once in the Bob Hope Lobby, a visitor receives a set of rules and instructions: A driver's license must be submitted in exchange for a library card; all belongings must be deposited in a rental (25) locker.
Named for a former academy librarian and executive director, the non-circulating library includes 18,000 volumes and more than 1,000 periodicals devoted to film, as well as screenplays from the silent and sound era, and production shots.
The green carpeting is thick and everything smells new in the upstairs Cecil B. De Mille reading room. Here, passion for the art form is almost palpable: Researchers study scripts and discuss story lines in whispered tones. The only disturbance is the clickety-clack of a laptop or two.
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Wednesdays and weekends.
* Lunch at Ports O'Call, a seafood restaurant overlooking the Port of Los Angeles (Berth 76, Ports O' Call Village, San Pedro;  833-3553) is a happy affair. Located plonk in the middle of food markets, galleries, arcades and gift shops, this spot is a haven in an oftentimes chaotic tourist spot. While boat horns beckon, and freighters and Catalina-bound boats glide by, sea gulls stop to chat or demand a bite, or even down a discarded beer or two. On a recent cold, foggy late morn, hot sourdough rolls and cups of rich coffee warmed one human's heart.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
* Afternoon tea at Checkers Restaurant (Wyndham Checkers Hotel, 535 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles;  624-000) is a rather sedate and lengthy affair. The two-hour ritual begins with a choice of tea: English breakfast, Darjeeling or Jasmine Blossom, to name a few. But it's a good 20 minutes before the assorted finger sandwiches--salmon and cream cheese, cucumber and cheese--materialize. And there are plenty of hot water refills before the hot scones are served with strawberry and peach preserves and cream. By the time a huge plate of pastries appears, the clock has hit 4, and afternoon shadows have started their dance.
Relaxing in deep, plump sofa cushions, everything seems smooth and brown velvety. A nap perhaps? The only rude awakening in the deserted lounge comes from a vacuum cleaner.
Hours: Afternoon tea, at $12.50 per person, is served between 2 and 5 p.m. daily. No reservations needed.
* At first glance, it looks like yet another suburban home. But upon entering the UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden, on an unlikely--and difficult to spot--strip of road in Bel Air, a visitor is greeted by a waterfall rushing into a pond filled with koi.
The key elements to a Japanese garden are water, stones and plants, and here, there are many paths to ascend--and many choices to make: A turn to the right, and there are cold, iron seats looking onto perfectly trimmed bonsai trees; a step to the left finds a pine tree here, a pink rhododendron bush there. Trouble is, the higher one climbs, the more street noise intrudes. Suddenly, a different offering emerges: A shady fern glade, surrounded by dancing waters, promises refuge from the midday sun. Visitors meet on a nearby bridge, but exchange no words.
Hours: Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Wednesday, noon to 3 p.m. Because of limited parking that allows two cars per hour, reservations are required. Group tours can be arranged. For information and directions, call UCLA Visitors Center, (310) 825-4574.
* Walking past the teahouse at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (1151 Oxford Road, San Marino;  405-2100), one descends into the true magnificence of a Japanese garden. (A signpost announces plans for an expanded entrance with easier access). Here, willow trees cast their shade and dangle lazily into assorted ponds. Moving to higher ground, a Zen Garden showcases a tiny collection of bonsai trees and an expansive rock and sand garden.
Yet all is far from peaceful in this place: A woman is agitated when a young model poses on a railing for an amateur filmmaker; a nearby security guard panics when a child runs amok in a replica of a 16th-Century Japanese home. A chance for contemplation comes later amid the shade of the adjoining Rose Garden.
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 1 to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for students.