One way of doing meditation that I like quite a lot is what might be called ‘hearing’ meditation. The idea is to let go of all thoughts and mental constructs, which is the goal of all kinds of meditation any way, but through letting in all the sounds in your environment to your ears without any judgment. You are just receiving the sounds, paying really close attention to the auditory quality of the sound as it channels into your ears, and you are not thinking to yourself what kind of sound that is, or from which source it is from. You are not thinking in words at all, but you become one with nature in that the sounds become one and the same with yourself. In fact there is no ‘you’, just sounds and the bare attention and bare awareness.
Well, this is the goal of the meditation any way. You might want to start this by finding a suitable spot to sit. This could be in your room at home, or could be at a park where you could hear birds chirping and leaves rustling. Or you could sit in a coffee shop in a middle of a very busy city and listen to all the noises that are coming to your ears.
Then you might do some breathing meditation technique to help your mind losing its usual attachment to the thoughts. Focus on your breath. When the body inhales and exhales, count one. (You are now observing what your body is doing very naturally. Try not to force your breathing. The goal is to observe the breathing as it actually happens naturally.) Then two, three, until ten. Then count backwards, … ten, nine, eight, seven, …, until you are back to one. Then count up again, this time until twenty. Remember that you are observing what your body is doing naturally. It is as if it was not you who are doing the breathing, but this body you are observing (which happens to be your own 🙂 ). After a while your mind will be loosened from the usual habit of thinking, planning, chatting to oneself, ruminating, etc., etc. and focus instead on the very present moment of the tactile feeling of the air coming in and out of the nose.
Well, that’s breathing meditation. But in this post I am talking about hearing meditation. After a period of breathing meditation, you begin to shift your attention away from the breathing to all the ambient sound that surrounds you. You are not focusing on any sound in particular. This method is not a focused meditation, but a receptive one. Imagine your ears to be a pair of wide antennae that receives everything minute sound waves. Let all the sounds soak into your ears. And when a sound comes, do not think like “Oh, this is a car engine,” because once you do that the mind will be back to its old untrained, unmeditated routine. So when the sound comes, you revel and are joyful in the bare quality, the pure, unjudged, unnamed, unconceptualized of the sound itself. It is as if the sound is caressing your ears and your brain with its pure, naked quality.
Try to stay in this stage for a while, say, three to five minutes, at first. It is advisable not to do the meditation for too long at first, because you will lost the quality of the meditation. Unless you are very proficient already, try to do short periods of meditation, and you can do that many times in a day if you like. And when you are really good at it, you can do it longer.
All this is called “Samatha” meditation. This is coupled with the other kind of meditation, the “Vipassana” (I am using the Pali terms; the Sanskrit are “Shamatha” and “Vipasyana” respectively.) The goal of the shamatha is to still the mind and wean it from its usual habit of entering into thoughts, and the goal of the vipasyana is to gain actual insight or wisdom that will cut off the root of defilements once and for all. The two need each other.