October 24, 2012

To meditate or not to meditate in a noisy city.

Photo h.koppdelaney

Allowing chaos to bring peace.

With cities getting busier and life on this planet getting harder, inner peace is fast becoming a holy grail. Many spiritual seekers are out there trying all sorts of meditative cocktails in search of it.

Yet, even when we find them, the setting of discovery may be far—so far removed from our day-to-day reality that we struggle to replicate the practice once alone.

In large cities, for example, noise can be so insistent that it can pull us out of our morning meditations a bit like a jack in the box, resulting in frustrations arising instead of intuitions.

As a keen mediator, I personally struggled with such distractions. Noise seemed to haunt me wherever I went.

While in McLeod Ganj, India, for example, the Dalai Lama was in town and meditating just 10 minutes down the road. The energy was incredible, but with my hotel being located right by the main road, so was the noise.

I had to crank up the soft lilting music on my iPhone to drown out the car horns so I could take in the serenity of if His Holiness. It felt a bit like trying to be in two places at once.

Then India being India, I had a wonderful synchronicity. One day I stumbled across a random poster. On it was advertised the opportunity to learn how to meditate using sound as an anchor to deepen mediation practice.

As I examined it a bit more closely, I noticed I had missed the workshop dates. It was the end of the season, it was cold and with no heating in town; most of the meditation teachers were heading south. But the sign had on it the name of a book The Joy of Living by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche that these teachings were apparently based upon.

In this book the Buddhist master and teacher weave together the principles of Tibetan Buddhism and science, which makes for a fascinating read. Finding links between these different paths, he demonstrates both apples of knowledge and wisdom haven’t fallen too far from each other; one may have simply ripened before the other.

While reading it, I came across the chapter about meditating on sound when I was living back in London. At the time, I felt really plagued with noise as my neighbors continued to thump about, so was I keen to try out the technique.

Photo h.koppdelaney

The guidance was to focus on the noise itself.

Allow the mind to rest on it rather than resist it. For me, it meant that noise soon became a source of peace rather than anguish. My mind was calmed by the city madness. Overtime I also noticed my sleep quality began to improve.

The added benefit of using sound as the anchor in meditation is that it gradually teaches us to detach from assigning meaning to all the sounds we hear. This reduces any emotional responses we may have while listening to someone shouting at us, for example. Bringing about a much more relaxed and balanced attitude no matter what the source of noise.

The Joy of Living is a great read written by a great teacher. The anchoring technique is one I now recommend to anyone I come across with similar difficulties.

If we can master our pains and turn them into our joys, we are a lot closer to that seemingly elusive holy grail.


Editor: Brianna Bemel


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