So last night. on Day Six of the 2012 Real Happiness 28 Day Meditation Challenge, I decided to focus on the "Hearing Meditation" Sharon describes in "Real Happiness". I actually do a similar practice quite often. She invites us to "See if you can hear a sound without naming or interpreting it." Simple right?
I actually utilize distracting sounds as the focal point of my meditation in order to prevent distraction quite often. I started doing this early in my practice because I would wake early in the morning and meditate when the house was as quiet as it ever is. With pets, a child, a spouse and living in the city it's unavoidable to experience sounds that can be distracting.
As an example, we have cats who would maybe start scratching on a post repeatedly or some such. Another noise that was very minor, but which I found extremely distracting, was the hard drive in our DVR. It would spin up now and then at odd times to record something and, me being a tech worker, catch my attention. This points to the fact that these responses are learned responses and CAN be let go of, or at least handled differently. Only because I work with computers, where a hard drive sound could signal a problem, does this give that sound enough value in my brain to cause it to be a distraction. Most people wouldn't even have heard it. So, rather than getting annoyed by these distractions, I started turning my attention on them and just allowing them to happen, then observing my reactions to them.
This is been extremely helpful to me in building a practice in a distracting environment. Now, almost two years later, I have been known to meditate quite happily in the middle of a parade crowd in DisneyWorld!
Well, last night, I followed Sharon's instructions around this practice and it worked well for the most part. That is, it worked well in the way that it normally does for me, where I notice the sound and observe it. Where this practice got tough for me was when I got to the part where Sharon says to "See if you can hear a sound without naming or interpreting it." This is MUCH more challenging than it sounds.
This not "naming or interpreting" part is the key, I think, to the deeper levels of this practice. It's simple enough to listen and observe sounds. Getting to the point of hearing the sound, noting your response to it and then observing the space between those two is a great thing in itself. To then not identify the sound is another level of practice altogether, though! You've spent your entire lifetime learning that that sound outside is a bus, or a motorcycle or a dog barking. To now try and hear the sound, observe your reaction to it and stop yourself from identifying it is truly challenging, at least for me!
Anyhow, I sat listening to the television show my wife was listening to, the cars, the animals, the planes and so forth. As I did, I realized I was paying so much attention to the effort to not identify these sounds that I was preventing myself from the rest of it. The mindfulness of it. So I relaxed, I allowed and observed. I noted the space between the sound and the reaction. And slowly, I started to glimpse the possibility of not identifying the sounds. I very much enjoyed this expansion on a practice I already use regularly. I expect I'll be spending more time on Hearing Meditation soon!
I hope your practice is expanding as well!
Be at ease!