Just as we are constantly breathing, there are constantly noises around us. Breathing meditation may be done anywhere for even a brief period, and so can a hearing meditation. We must take the same focus we used to observe our breath and use it to observe the sounds around us.
Find a comfortable place to sit. Whether it is a cushion, a chair, the floor, or anything else, make sure you keep your spine straight without being stiff. Stay relaxed in good posture. As this is a hearing meditation, be mindful of where you choose to sit and the noises around. I personally like to sit where I can hear natural sounds (birds chirping, water crashing, wind, etc.) AND man-made sounds (cars going by, a door shutting, etc.). You may set a timer for any amount of time you choose. Fifteen to twenty minutes is recommended, but don’t push yourself too hard. If you did 5 minutes for the first one, try 6 minutes this time.
Taking a few deep breaths, let your eyes close naturally. As you let your breath resume a natural rhythm, again observe your breath without judgement. After a few minutes of centering your concentration in your breath, begin to focus on the noises around you.
You may hear many different noises at once, or focus on one noise specifically. Resist the temptation to name the sounds you hear. Rather than hearing a car go past and picturing the car, simply observe the noise. You may take note of how the noise makes you feel. Don’t go deeper than positive, negative, or neutral.
The reason I enjoy somewhere with a variety of sounds is that it helps my practice greatly. If I am only hearing “positive” sounds, it is easy for me to stay present. When I hear “negative” sounds like a phone ringing or a car horn, it helps me strengthen my ability to focus. When you hear an unpleasant sound, don’t judge, drift off into resentment, or begin to make up a story. Identify it as negative, and move on.
It is common for our minds to wander in this meditation, especially in the direction of identifying sounds, harvesting resentment when we hear a negative sound, and becoming attached to pleasant sounds. With compassion, bring your conscious attention back to the sounds around you, and resume observing without judgement nor analysis. Simply listen.
When your timer goes off, don’t open your eyes immediately. Allow them to open at the right time, and come back into the world.