What do you hear when it is very, very quiet? It is not nothing. The universe hums. Sound is vibration, and the world vibrates. We have the ability to sense vibrations in the air, and we call it hearing. We hear birds singing, people talking, vehicles moving, wind blowing, fans humming, water falling. Our minds sort the sounds by importance. You may hear birds calling as you awaken in the morning, but as you go about your daily business, you may no longer notice the sound. You may hear people talking, but not really attend to what they are saying, until you hear your name spoken. When you drive, you probably don’t notice the sound of the engine, unless the vibration changes, and then your awareness focuses on the unfamiliar motor noise, and you tune out the radio or the person in the passenger seat talking to you.
Normally, we are bombarded with all sorts of sounds in the course of our day and are aware of relatively little of it. Much of the sound is of no significance to us, so we tune it out. People vary in their ability to do this, and for many of us the need to tune out noise in our daily routine creates stress. When you are trying to concentrate and the radio or TV is playing or people are talking nearby, the task becomes harder. Tension increases and concentration suffers.
Meditation is best done in a quiet place. If quiet is unattainable, masking sounds, such as calming music, recordings of nature sounds, or even white noise, like the sound of a fan, can help screen the distractions. Chanting also helps the meditator to screen out distracting sound. In addition, it creates a physical vibration in the body of the chanter that may be calming, yet energizing.
Let’s assume though, that you can find a quiet place to sit. Maybe this is a place far from the hubbub of the world. If there were no significant sound vibrations in the air, what would you hear? Maybe the air molecules doing their random dance would cause a quiet hum in your ears. You might hear the soft sound of your breathing. You might even hear your heart beating and the blood pulsing in your body. If you are very still, your whole body may become like your ears, and you will feel the vibrations in your cells as if they were sounds. You might feel/hear the electrical pulses of nerve cells passing messages down the line. You might hear/feel the rustling of protoplasm as cells grow, divide, and die. If you tune in even more, you might think you can sense the rattling of atoms as they bump together and electrons bounce around their paths of probability. When you are very still the universe hums, and the humming is a chorus that forms an infinite song.
Notice your awareness of sound. Stop what you are doing now and then, and just listen. What do you hear, when listening attentively, that you screened out a moment ago. What sounds demand your attention? What sounds irritate you? What sounds soothe you?
Do a sound inventory of your home or work place. What do you hear there? Is it too noisy for comfort? Can you turn down the volume, at least some of the time, to create more peace and quiet? You may need to negotiate with those who share your space. Talk about it.
In meditation, try just listening. Instead of concentrating on one thing, open your awareness as wide as it will go. Listen receptively. Become aware of whatever sounds come to you. Notice how your attention moves from one sound to another. Notice where attention fades. Notice where it sharpens.
Listen with your whole body. Where are the boundaries between hearing and feeling? Can you hear your soft breathing? Can you hear your pulse? What else can you hear?
The Thunder of NowPlowing the field of magnificent potential,
We view our lives as if through a microscope.
Addicted to progression, our history making
Folds in the converging lines of events,
So that the highly improbable appears,
In its fixed past, inevitable.
Pulling clear lines out of chaos,
Life becomes ordered, predictable and small.
Instead, listen to the universe squeezing itself into existence.
Pieces of being crackle into nowness,
Moment by moment,
Probabilities freeze into real time.
Like a flock of crows drawn together by mysterious attraction,
This "right now" flies at us
From the vestiges of "a moment ago."
Gather yourself to awe
At the thunder of unfathomable being
Drawing up creation.
© 2004 Tom Barrett