Sounds and silence are everywhere, inside and out. Our bodies and the natural world exist in constant vibration. We can tune in on some of these vibrations in the form of sounds. They can become the focus for our meditation.
I love to listen to the constant wash of waves on a beach, or the gentle notes of the wind chimes in my garden. Often my mind is so busy that I do not notice the sounds all around me. When I take time to sit quietly I am soothed by silence and sounds.
A listening meditation is one of my favourite ways to rest my brain. Our sense of hearing is powerful and evocative. We can use it as an anchor for the mind. We can simply focus on the sounds around us. Calming music and brainwave frequency sounds can also help us slow down our over-active brains[i]. This is good for our nervous system, concentration skills and long term health[ii].
How to Enjoy a Listening Meditation – Start by Closing Your Eyes
To meditate on sounds and silence, simply sit or lie down and close your eyes. You can do this anywhere. You don’t have to be in an especially quiet place, although it is best to avoid lots of loud noise, TV or people talking. Take a few deep breaths and begin to relax.
Notice the Sounds Around You
Now begin to focus your attention on whatever you can hear around you. Notice all the sounds and noises in the space where you are right now. If you notice yourself thinking about anything else, bring your mind back to whatever you can hear. Listen carefully and attentively.
Sounds are not Good or Bad
Allow everything you can hear to enter your ears as a sensory experience. Welcome it all in. Try, just for now, to let go of ideas about the sounds you can hear being good or bad. It is easy to judge birdsong as “good” and traffic noise as “bad”. Then before you know it you find yourself thinking about how you must remember to buy some more birdseed, or getting annoyed that they haven’t built that bypass yet. We are not aiming to analyse the sounds we can hear. We simply want to experience sound itself, here and now.
Imagine You have Giant Ears
I find it helps to imagine my ears are enormous. This reminds me that I am living these moments through my sense of hearing. I am allowing my mind to rest on whatever vibrations I detect with my ears. Sound washes over me and through me. I am made of vibrating atoms. I am living in a world of sound and silence.
Listen to Faraway Sounds
Try as hard as you can to listen to sounds far away. As far away as you can possibly hear. Maybe you can hear a car three streets away. Perhaps children are playing in the park at the other end of your road. Can you hear a pigeon walking on the roof? A plane flying high in the sky? The drumming of a woodpecker in the forest?
The Sounds of Your Own Body
Now come close and listen to the sounds deep inside yourself. Can you hear the valves opening and closing inside your heart? Is your stomach gurgling? Perhaps there is a quiet pulsation behind your eardrums. Settle in and become aware of the sounds of your own remarkable body. Know that you are part of the living and vibrating universe.
The Sound of Silence
Even in a quiet place, you will hear many sounds when you begin to listen. Can you hear the sound of silence? Among the birdsong, the bees, the footsteps and the grasshoppers, are there moments of stillness? Perhaps you begin to detect rhythms and moments of rest. Listen for silence and allow yourself to experience this too. Then allow all the sounds to wash over you like waves, and simply rest.
When you wish to return to your normal mode of being, take your time slowly to become aware of your surroundings again. Begin to move your body, enjoying some deeper breaths and stretching out your arms and legs. Take a little time to relax and notice how you feel before continuing with your day.
Sounds and Music for Meditation
Some people like to meditate to recorded sounds or music. Many types of music are suitable for helping to calm and soothe the mind. Simple and repetitive sounds are often best as they offer least distraction. Nature sounds or “white noise” can be calming and peaceful.
Some music tracks included embedded brainwave beats. Our brainwaves pulsate at different frequencies depending on whether we are actively thinking, relaxed, meditating or sleeping. The slower brainwave patterns correspond to more restful states of being. Listening to music with brainwave frequency beats can be very helpful for focus, learning, calm or sleep[iii]. So-called “binaural beats” are designed to be listened to through headphones as the vibrations are designed to be heard at slightly different frequencies in each ear. You can also enjoy music with monaural or isochronic beats without headphones[iv].
Today’s Calming Practice – Listening Meditation
Take ten minutes today to relax and listen to all the sounds around you. Simply focus all your attention on whatever you hear, without judgement or thinking too much. Let the sounds envelop you and enjoy the experience.
Thanks for reading this blog post. I am writing a series of 31 blogs every day this August. I plan to publish them later in the year as a book entitled, ‘Finding Your Calm Space – 31 Ways to Find Calm in a Crazy World’.
I’m Karen. I am a Yoga teacher, Reflexologist and busy mum of seven. I live with my family in Billericay, Essex, UK. In the past I have worked as a Midwife, Health Visitor, Baby Signing teacher and Tax Inspector. I love getting outdoors, swimming in the sea, walking and writing. Helping people relax is one of the things I do best.
You can learn more about my Yoga classes and Reflexology at my website www.thecalmspace.co.uk