Author Topic: Can "hearing sounds" , instead of "watching breath" be called as meditation?  (Read 149 times)

Prabhudev Metgud

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Hi everyone,

I am just a novice in meditation practice, a beginner. A few days back, I tried to be in
a state of "vipassana" meditation. I had closed my eyes and was watching my
breath. But, instead of breath, my watching shifted to hearing sound around me.
While in meditation, I could hear traffic noise (my house is in market area), chirping
of birds near window of our house, sometimes even soothing music if it was ON in my laptop.
So, please can anybody tell me if calmly "hearing sounds" (after closing eyes), instead of "watching the breath" be called as a type of meditation? is it OK to do this? or have I misunderstood?

Purnanand-Bharti

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I think there is nothing wrong. Hearing is also an important object of awareness. But try to focus on breath. It is more natural to humans. You do not need to put any extra unnecessary effort to acquiring concentration.

Good Luck
Baba Purnanand Bharti

BeHereNow

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Hi PM,

Hearing can certainly be your focus of meditation.  What I would suggest though is to pick one object of meditation at a time, and stick to that for the time that you have committed to.  For example, if you start with the breath, stay with the breath even if your attention goes to hearing.  Bring it back to the breath.  Then, if you choose to go to hearing as the object of meditation, stay with hearing.  Notice what you hear, as well as the activity of listening (i.e. when the sounds hit your ear, when they stop, what that feels like).

Starting with the breath is certainly a good way to begin as BPB has suggested.  Mindful listening is a wonderful enhancement, especially in your life, throughout the day.

Best of luck!

Much metta,
Paula
"You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron

Prabhudev Metgud

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Why do you say "especially in your life"..... ? please can you explain?

dharma bum

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I am only a curiousity-driven person who experiments with stuff (but not substances). I'm not an authority of any sort so everything I say may be filtered keeping that in mind.

I've found that tuning your ears to bird and insect sounds, or the sound of the leaves shaking in the wind can be as calming to the body/mind as awareness of breathing. My theory is that any perception in the mind that involves subtlety necessarily requires a calm mind and the mind/body adjusts to allow that subtlety. You could just as well be aware of the sound of your breathing for example. All these meditative techniques work in the same way.

I'd say music, words, mantras work differently because the mind processes them differently.
Mostly ignorant

BeHereNow

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Hi PM,

What I mean by "especially in your life" is that you don't need to limit yourself to practicing hearing meditation when doing your formal practice, you can also do it in your every day affairs.  When you are working, walking, or talking with someone, you can bring your attention to what you hear, and this can bring you into the present moment.  It is a way to continue your meditation "off the cushion" and enhance your daily activities.

I love the suggestion of tuning your ears to sounds of nature by DB, I will do that on my walk home today :-)

Much metta,
Paula
"You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron

playground

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I've found that tuning your ears to bird and insect sounds, or the sound of the leaves shaking in the wind can be as calming to the body/mind as awareness of breathing. My theory is that any perception in the mind that involves subtlety necessarily requires a calm mind and the mind/body adjusts to allow that subtlety. You could just as well be aware of the sound of your breathing for example. All these meditative techniques work in the same way.

Hi DB, good post...

For me, the sound of rain, especially heavy rain, is fantastic for meditation.
Somehow it adds a feeling of being warm, dry and safe... to the meditative experience.
I feel happier meditating, and i can sit for a longer time, if there's a nice heavy
rainstorm raging around in the garden outside.

The reason for the emphasis, within Burmese Vipassana lineages, on 'top lip' meditation,
is that U Ba Khin (a lay person, not a monk) experimented with various meditation
techniques and came to the conclusion that the 'top lip' method worked better for him
than the other methods he tried.  In short, it worked for him.

be happy :) 

Middleway

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Yes, it is okay to listen to external sounds and make them as meditation object. It will help you calm your mind and achieve a certain level of tranquility. This is good as long as you keep improving the subtlety of the mind as dharma bum points out. But after a while you will notice that your will reach a plateau. Because, the external sounds are not so subtle, you will have to switch to breath again to make progress. Breath becomes subtle progressively with calming of the mind.

After achieving a certain level of subtlety (tranquillity) of the mind, you should start practicing insight meditation. This is about investigating the inner workings of the mind. This investigation is conceptual. One needs to observe with discriminative inquiry on how the mind creates duality.

For example, when you hear a sound from a moving train, what you actually experience is your mind's simulation of that sound. You mind divides itself into observed (sound) and observer (your ego self). You can only see this by focussing your mind on itself. If your mind is focused outward, you will keep missing the point. Yes, you will be calm and peaceful but insight will not arise.

Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

dharma bum

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i find that lip meditation works well for me in winter when the breath is cold and there is a distinct cold patch of skin over the lip. in winter, walking outside, i can calm down very quickly even from an agitated state of mind.

when i was a young student in college, i found that i could calm down quickly by being aware of the sound of waves lapping the shore of a lake or pond. a visual method is to lie down on the ground and keeping eyes relaxed follow the flights of birds in the sky - kites for example are common in india and it is quite calming to follow their circular movements in the sky as they ride the wind.

i discovered this before i knew anything about buddhism and i think many religious traditions use similar methods of contemplation to enter a meditative state of mind. of course if you're buddhist then the calming of the mind needs to be followed by contemplation of buddhist principles and their incorporation in daily routine life.
Mostly ignorant

Middleway

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Suffering is in our minds. If we want tackle it, we have to look within and not without.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.