Mindfulness Of Sound by Alan Watts

 

The easiest way to get into the meditative state is to begin by listening.

 

If you simply close your eyes and allow yourself to hear all of the sounds that are going on around you.

Just listen to the general hum and buzz of the world as if you were listening to music.

 

Don’t try to identify the sounds you are hearing.

Don’t put names on them.

Simply allow them to play with your ear drums.

And let them go.

 

In other words you can put it,

“Let your ears hear whatever they want to hear.”

Don’t judge the sounds.

There are no, as it were, proper sounds or improper sounds.

And it doesn’t matter if someone coughs or sneezes or drops something.

It’s all just sound.

 

And if I am talking to you right now and you are doing this.

I want you to listen to the sound of my voice just as if it were noise.

Don’t try to make any sense out of what I’m saying.

Because your brain will take care out of that automatically.

You don’t have to try to understand anything.

Just listen to the sound.

 

As you pursue that experiment.

You will very naturally find that you can’t help naming sounds..

 

Identifying them.

That you will go on thinking.

That is to say, talking to yourself inside your head, automatically.

 

But it’s important that you don’t try to repress those thoughts by forcing them out of your mind.

 

Because that will have precisely the same effect as if you were trying to smooth rough water with a flat iron.

You’re just going to disturb it all the more.

What you do is this.

As you hear sounds coming up in your head — thoughts — you simply listen to them as part of the general noise going on.

Just as you would be listening to the sound of my voice.

Or just as you would be listening to cars going by or birds chattering out the window.

So look at your own thoughts as just noises.

And soon you will find, that the so-called outside world and the so-called inside world come together.

They are a happening.

Your thoughts are a happening.

Just like the sounds going on outside.

And everything is simply a happening.

And all you are doing is watching it.

 

Now in this process, another thing that is happening that is very important…

Is that you’re breathing.

And as you start meditation, you allow your breath to run — just as it wills.

In other words, don’t do, at first, any breathing exercise.

But just watch your breath breathe the way it wants to breathe.

 

And then notice a curious thing about this.

You say in the ordinary way, “I breathe.”

Because you feel that breathing is something that you are doing voluntarily.

Just in the same way as you might be walking or taking.

 

But you will also notice that when you are not thinking about breathing, your breathing goes on just the same.

So the curious thing about breath is that it can be looked at both as a voluntary and an involuntary action.

You can feel on the one hand, “I am doing it” and on the other hand, “It is happening to me.”

And that is why breathing is a most important part of meditation.

Because it is going to show you, as you become aware of your breath, that the hard and fast division that we make between what we do, on the one hand, and what happens to us on the other, is arbitrary.

 

So that as you watch your breathing, you will become aware, that both the voluntary and the involuntary aspects of your experience are all one happening.

Now that may, at first, seem a little scary.

Because you may think, am I just the puppet of a happening?

The mere passive witness of something that’s going on completely beyond my control?

Or on the other hand, am I really doing everything that’s going along?

Well if I were, I should be God.

And that would be very embarrassing because I would be in charge of everything.

 

That would be a terribly responsible position.

 

The truth of the matter, as you will see it, is that both things are true.

 

You can see that everything is happening to you.

And on the other hand you are doing everything.

 

For example, it’s your eyes that are turning the sun into light.

It’s the nerve ends in your skin that are turning electric vibrations in the air into heat and temperature.

It’s your ear drums that are turning vibrations in the air into sound.

And in that way you are creating the world.

 

But — when we’re not talking about it, when we’re not philosophizing about it.

Then there is just this happening, this…

And we won’t give it a name.

 

Now then, when you breathe for a while, just letting it happen.

And not forcing it in any way.

You will discover a curious thing.

That without making any effort, you can breathe more and more deeply.

 

In other words, suppose you are simply breathing out.

And breathing out is important because it’s the breath of relaxation.

That’s when we say, “Sheeeeeww” and heave a sigh of relief.

 

So when you are breathing out, you get the sensation that your breath is falling out.

Dropping, dropping, dropping out.

 

With the same sort of feeling you have as if you were settling down into an extremely comfortable bed.

 

And you just get as heavy as possible and let yourself go.

And you let your breath go out in just that way.

And when it’s thoroughly, comfortably out

And it feels like coming back again.

 

You don’t pull it back in, you let it fall back in.

Letting your lungs expand, expand, expand.

Until they feel very comfortably full.

And you wait a moment and let it stay there.

And then, once again, you let it fall out.

 

And so in this way you will discover that your breath gets quite naturally easier and easier.

And slower and slower.

And more, and more powerful.

 

So that, with these various aides, listening to sound, listening to your own interior feelings and thoughts.

Just as if they were something going on.

Not something you’re doing but just “happenings”.

And watching your breath as a happening that is neither voluntary nor involuntary.

You are simply aware of these basic sensations.

Then — you will begin to be in a state of meditation.

 

But don’t hurry anything.

Don’t worry about the future.

Don’t worry about what progress you’re making.

Just be entirely content to being aware of what is.

 

Advertisements