Listening as a meditation practice


Nipper the dog listening to a gramophone player

For Day 45 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge I wanted to post something I wrote in response to one of our participants who found it useful to set a bell to ring every so often while she was meditating.

What I’ve found is that when I’m listening very intently to something, I can’t also do much (if any) thinking. So listening to a gong can be very calming.

When we’re listening we’re also being very receptive and open, and opposed to all the “doing” we normally, well, do. That “doing,” if were not being very mindful, tends to make us close off to our experience, so that we can become very willful. The ideal is combining doing and receptivity, so that the doing takes place within a greater context of not-doing. But periods of pure “not doing” are a good practice.

Also, a bell naturally fades away into the void. It can get so that you’re not sure whether you’re listening to the last traces of the bell, or whether you’re listening to silence. And listening to silence is a great practice.

And lastly when you listen to a bell, it’s possible to be aware that there’s not just one “thing” you’re listening to. Every moment is different. Every moment is a combination of multitudinous arisings and fallings, beginnings and endings. And so in listening to a bell we can start to have a greater appreciation of impermanence and non-self; the sound of the bell doesn’t have a “self” — it’s not a thing. It’s composed instead of those myriad arisings and passings-away, just as we are.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Buddhism has determined that we humans are re-borne in an endless repetitive cycle, and that each life cycle starts at a higher or lower level, depending on how we behaved in the last life. But who is governing this whole system? It must be an electronic computer which has no feeling, otherwise the governing entity would not allow the immense suffering and slavery we humans and all living beings are subjected to. – For humans at least Buddhism shows a way out of this vicious cycle to Nirvana by giving up materialism.
    Please provide the Buddhist knowledge of this subject.

    Thank you for your time. Best Regards, Werner in Arizona

    • Your question is based on the premise that there is some external force governing karma, but this assumption is alien to Buddhist teachings. By analogy, there is no external entity that aligns all the sodium and chloride ions when a crystal of salt forms. The crystallization results from the properties of the ions themselves. Similarly, Buddhism teaches that there are dynamics involved in human consciousness, such that our actions have consequences. If I act out of greed, hatred, and delusion, then I’ll suffer more. If I act out of wisdom and compassion, I’ll suffer less. No external entity is required to govern this system — and certainly not an electronic computer.


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