Using sounds to bring us to the present
Updated: Jun 17, 2021
Sounds and hearing
Our senses help bring us into the present moment and simply listening to sounds as they come and go can be relaxing. Listening to music with our full attention, noticing the changing textures and harmonies, can be relaxing and wondrous. But we can also listen just to whatever is arising in our experience.
Awareness of thoughts meditation is usually practised by starting with sounds. Once we can sense sounds coming and going, it is simpler to move into the realm of thinking, noticing how thoughts come and go like sounds. We can practise seeing thoughts as mental events that happen in the mind, which lets us stand back from them and be less caught up in over thinking.
To bring awareness to what we can hear, try taking a few moments to be still and tune in to what you can hear – maybe a car passing by, birds singing, the wind, the sound of a door closing. See if you can notice just the raw sound, and its volume, pitch, tone and rhythm, rather than getting caught up in thoughts about what you hear. As if you’re a microphone and just letting the sounds come to you.
Bringing awareness to sounds as they come and go can be restful, especially if we are caught up in consuming thoughts about the past or future.
With unpleasant sounds...
And unpleasant sounds can be interesting to explore:
- What is it about this sound that feels unpleasant?
- Do I have sensations in the body connected to these sounds?
- Can I practise being with this unpleasant experience that is arising?
With pleasant sounds...
By lingering with what we are hearing, absorbing the different textures and nuances within the sound, it might give us more pleasure than normal, when we might barely notice it. We can also practise letting sounds go, noticing when we might be attached to pleasant ones and trying to hold onto them.
Sometimes we try and find a perfect place to meditate, a quiet, calm place. But actually having sounds coming and going can be useful for mindfulness practice. You can read more about my experience with foxes intruding like unwelcome thoughts in an earlier blog about perfect meditation environments.
Mindful speaking and listening
We can bring awareness when we’re listening and talking with others. Can you listen without agreeing or disagreeing, liking or disliking, or planning what you will say when it is your turn? We explore mindful speaking and listening in the MBSR stress reduction course, towards the end of the 8 weeks once we have become more accustomed to bringing a non judgemental awareness to our thoughts.
For those of us who talk a lot, can we let go of what is driving our need to talk?
If this feels uncomfortable, notice how your mind and body feel.
Bring curiosity to your speaking and listening, and be careful not to be judgemental on yourself. It can take time, patience and gentleness to change deeply rooted habits.