Three of us met at the beach on Sunday morning. Light drizzle, occasional sun, dark clouds, winds from the East, temperature around 9°C. We lugged cushions with cardboard underlay, blankets, rain gear, and the tea-and-snacks basket to an outcrop facing South. There we sat, in silent meditation, for the next two hours.
I noticed many sounds: boats, float planes, cars, people jogging, dogs sniffing, birds calling, waves lapping, ship’s horn blowing, metal pounding on metal, a lawn mower at full-throttle. My mind wandered to a summer day ten years earlier when my Zen teacher taught me to practice with sound.
Sit still and listen, she said, pointing to the open window behind her. Then notice what the mind wants to do: first, there is pure sound (say, bbbrrrrhhh); next the mind wants to identify and classify (ah, this sounds like a lawnmower); then judging mind kicks in (geez, they shouldn’t be allowed to make such a racket …). Bla bla and off we go, thinking about this and that, into fantasy land.
Aware of that habitual response, I began staying with sounds just as they were — a screech here, a hum there, some voices over there. Nothing added, simply sounds here and now. In conversation afterwards, we talked about hearing voices and chosing to either listen or not listening to what’s being said.
So here’s one more practical tool to experiment with in your everyday: hear sounds as they are, then notice the mind’s habit of wanting to interpret, categorize, like/dislike, and so on. Be patient. Begin to notice, to distinguish sound “as is” from “add-ons.” Then, over time, in small steps, train the mind to stay close to the actual experience.