What is it?
While many meditation techniques require solitude and silence, this one has you engage with sounds all around you; it invites you to work with the noise instead of fighting it. The intent is to experience sound as vibration, rather than information. “The listening practice is a way of interacting with the environment that allows you to take in the whole energy of the present moment,” says Sally Kempton, a spiritual guide who teaches yoga and meditation at her Carmel, Calif.- based Awakened Heart Meditation (sallykempton.com).
What’s it good for?
Especially adaptable and portable, listening meditation can be practiced in crowded, noisy situations—on a bus, at the office—that would hinder other styles. (Kempton once led a listening meditation workshop in the middle of a busy Whole Foods store!) People with particularly chattering minds may need to couple this practice with a mantra or breathing meditation. However, many people welcome the chance to focus outward rather than inward and find that listening meditation is one of the easier techniques to undertake. “You’ll come away from it feeling refreshed, expanded and at ease with your environment,” declares Kempton.
How long does it take?
Try for five minutes at first, then continue adding a minute or two until you can do it for 15 or 20 minutes at a time.
How do I do it?
1. Sit in a comfortable position and close (or half close) your eyes.
2. To get centered and quiet, first go to your breath, noticing but not trying to change it.
3. Now “open” your ears and bring your awareness to the sounds around you. The goal is to listen to the whole range of sounds, without favoring one and without identifying them. Hear the quiet sounds and the silences as well as the dominant sounds.
4. When you find yourself identifying sounds (“there’s a fire engine”; “that’s my neighbor’s TV”), gently redirect your attention from listening to a specific noise back to hearing the whole spectrum of sounds.
5. To end, slowly open your eyes, stand and carry this awareness with you for as long as you can.