Day 2 Meditation
For our second day, we continue in the world of CONCENTRATION by using the everyday the sounds around us to help gather our attention. If you have attended an event with me in person, you have probably done this technique with me, as I often use it to start a meditation session. It is a gentle way to relax deep inside. Today we will explore this technique as a concentration practice to offer you an alternative to the breath meditation from the Day One practice.
This meditation reveals how we can meet any experience we might encounter with openness, spaciousness, and kindness. You will see right away that you like certain sounds and don’t like others. However, we can still meet them with an open curiosity. We don’t have to hold on or push away the sounds to try to seize control over that which we will never have control over!
There are many different postures that work well for meditation practice. I recommend taking some time to figure out what feels comfortable and sustainable for you, so that you’re not distracted by your posture for your whole practice! Traditionally, people sit on a cushion on the floor when meditating, but this isn’t accessible for many. If you are sitting on the floor, sitting on a pillow or sofa cushion is fine; you can also buy a special cushion made especially for meditating, or a meditation bench that lets you sit in a supported kneeling position. If this floor position doesn’t work for you, try sitting in a straight-backed dining room or kitchen chair, or on the couch. If you’re unable to sit at all, you may lie down on your back with your arms at your sides.
Question & Answer
Q: I really can’t stop thinking when I meditate. Isn’t meditation supposed to get rid of thoughts?
A: The point of meditation is not to annihilate thoughts. There are plenty of times in life when thinking is called for – vital, in fact, to our survival. What we hope to learn in meditation practice is the difference between thinking and being lost in thought. We don’t want to stop our thoughts but to change our relationship with them – to be more present and aware when we’re thinking. If we’re aware of what we’re thinking, if we see clearly what’s going on in our minds, then we can choose whether and how to act on our thoughts. With this in mind, it’s good to consider that the gauge for your practice is not how much you are thinking, or what you are thinking about. Instead, the gauge is how spacious you are with your thoughts—that is, how much room you give them just to be, how closely you observe them, or how forgiving you are of yourself.
Welcome back. Today I’ll be guiding you through a hearing meditation. This is a good meditation in and of itself. And also serves as a good alternative to the breath. If for physical reasons like asthma, or some emotional reasons that affect your breathing, you find settling your attention on the breath more unsettling than settling.
To begin with, you can take a comfortable posture and recognize that sound is continually coming and going outside of our control. One of the ways this meditation is used is to show us that we can actually meet any experience with greater clarity, openness, spaciousness, and kindness, even as we like certain sounds and we don’t like others. We don’t have to chase after them to hold on or push away, fretfully trying to seize control over that which we will never have control over. Some beautiful wonderful sounds arise, others are quite unpleasant or jangly. Unless you’re responsible for responding to the sound, this is a time when you can actually practice simply being present. Noticing the sound for what it is, you don’t have to elaborate, “Oh, that’s a bus. I wonder what the bus route is. Maybe they should change the bus route, so it’s more convenient for me.” Instead, simply hear.
In this meditation, you can close your eyes or keep them open. If your eyes are open, you can find a spot in front of you just to rest your gaze, let it go. And hear the sounds that arise and pass away, as though they’re washing through you. There’s nothing you need to do about the sounds. You don’t need to respond. You needn’t try to stop them. You don’t even have to understand them, whether it’s the sound of my voice, or other sounds, some near, some far, some welcome, some not so welcome. Maybe it’s the sound of traffic, or the wind rustling through the trees. In either case, it’s simply sound rising and passing away. You can notice changes in intensity and volume. As the sound washes through you, without interference, without judgment, you don’t have to send your ears out to listen. Relax deep inside.
Create a vast sense of space, in which sound is rising and falling, rising and falling. If you find yourself getting tense in reaction to a sound, take a deep breath, just relax. If you find yourself craving more of a sound, here too, you can simply relax. The sound will arise and pass away without regard to our clinging or condemning. Simply notice that sound arises. We have a certain response to it. And there’s a little space in between those two. Stay open for the appearance of the next sound. And when you feel ready, you can open your eyes and relax. You can reflect on the difference you experienced between resisting a sound and simply hearing. Following out after a sound, and simply being with it.
See if you can take some of that understanding into your day.