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meditating on sounds

Meditation on sounds can be very useful for cultivating openness and spaciousness, and for connecting with life. Concentrating only on the breath or the body, you can sometimes become too locked inside yourself. Listening to sounds is a wonderful meditation that opens you to the world around. Generally it is done in three stages: you start with sounds inside the body, then move to sounds nearby and then finally to sounds further away. Do not grasp at any particular sounds. Do not name them or make up stories about them. Do not discriminate - just listen to the sounds as they are.

I was once leading a retreat on a Sunday. We were all silently sitting in meditation when, suddenly, a neighbor put some music on: what sounded like the Best of Rock and Roll at full volume. For the next hour, forty of us tried to meditate while the Beatles sang 'Revolution’. It was deafening!

I thought this was a great exercise and later asked people how they had reacted. Some were very annoyed and said that they might as well have stayed at home, since what was the point in using a Sunday to meditate when it wasn’t even silent? Others had experienced listening to the sounds as just sounds, no better or worse then my voice or the birds. It had been quite a revealing experience for them.