How to Meditate in a Noisy Environment

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Developing a meditation habit can be difficult.  Even when you are focused on starting a session, the usual mental blocks begin to make their way into your head.  You wonder if the session will go well.  You get anxious wanting to make sure it’s perfect.

Well, as overwhelming as those thoughts may be, there is one thing that stops people before they even start. Noise.

Many beginning meditators first struggle with finding the time. Once they have cleared time and are ready to sit down to begin, the next hurdle is finding a quiet place to meditate.  However, as anyone knows, who does not live in the woods or in seclusion, quiet is not easy to find.  

There is a way to meditate that doesn’t require absolute silence though. CLICK TO TWEET

Abandon perfection, release expectation

Trying to be perfect in anything is the quickest route to procrastination and disappointment.  Such is definitely the case with meditation.  In the beginning, you want everything to be perfect.  You want to find a place where there are no people, no distractions.  Unless you have this perfect place, you feel that your session is doomed.  Why even start?

With those thoughts running through your mind it's even more apparent you need to meditate.  Start by realizing that there are no perfect places. Don't think you need absolute silence to start.  Simply begin. Acknowledge that regardless of circumstance, you are taking steps to meditate, to take care of yourself.  Noise or not, this is an accomplishment.


Why you think noise is bad

Meditation teaches us that thoughts are simply things.  The goal is to see thoughts objectively; to not follow, dissect or become wrapped up in them.  That same goal can be achieved with sights and sounds; with anything.  You can be an observer of anything, everything.  

When you hear a noise, you put a value on it, a judgment. It’s loud. It’s soft. It’s irritating.  it’s musical. It’s beautiful.  Everyone assigns labels according to their perceptions.  However, the sounds aren’t any of the qualities listed.  They are simply sounds; void of value unless one is placed on them by an observer. Their value is determined by who is listening.  Why is it that some people love heavy metal music and others find it dreadful? Why is it that some people love the sound of their loud motorcycle, while others are disgusted? It’s all perception. Meditation allows us to be observers; of thoughts, situations, and in this case, sounds.  

How to meditate with noise

Begin by finding a secluded place to meditate; someplace where you will not be interrupted. It doesn’t matter if there's noise around.  In fact, in this instance, you will want some.  It can be cars driving by, people talking in the distance, dogs barking or anything. Believe it or not, it's best if it’s all of these things.

Get comfortable in your chair or on the floor and gently close your eyes.  Start by taking a nice deep breath in through your nose, expanding your abdomen, filling your belly and then chest.  Hold that breath at the top of the inhale for a few seconds and then slowly exhale through your mouth.  Take three more breaths in this manner and then bring your breathing back to its regular rhythm.  After a few moments of breathing regularly, bring your attention to the sounds around you.  Simply hear them.  Observe them.  If you hear people talking, don’t try to hear what they are saying; simply hear the tones, the volume and intonations, without making any judgements.

If you hear a car drive by, don’t try to determine it’s type, make or size.  Simply hear it in the distance, get louder as it passes, and then softer as it gets further away.  Again, no judgment.

Now try to determine how many different sounds you hear around you.  Try to isolate each one.  Start with the sound that is the furthest away from you.  Hear it. Focus on it exclusively.  Don’t judge it; simply observe it.  Spend time noting its sound, its volume.  Notice if there are multiple tones in that one sound, if there are different pitches. 

After you have isolated that one sound, bring your attention to the next closest sound and do the same thing.  Hear it without judgment.  Continue with all the sounds you can hear.  There is no time limit for each one.  Move on to the next one once you have heard all you can of the sound you are listening to.

After you have listened to all the sounds, bring your attention back to your breath. Focus on its rhythm.  Once you have regained a sense of awareness of your body and the room, take one final deep breath and open your eyes.

Be patient

This exercise may come easier to some than to others.  Regardless of your success, be kind and patient once you are done.  Whether you feel it was beneficial or not, recognize that you took the time to better your practice.  After all, meditation is a practice, a journey; and by trying this exercise you took steps on that path.

Thom WaltersComment