October 16th, 2012

10/16/2012

 

 
 
Sound Meditation

By Sylvia Boorstein

"Deep hearing, then, is not just an auditory sensation, involving the ear, but a matter of the whole . 'Deep hearing of the Dharma' means embodying the Buddha Dharma, an experiential awakening of the total self, conscious and unconscious, mind and body." -Rev. Taitetsu Unno

One specific method for practicing mindfulness of body sensations is to focus your attention on sounds. Sounds, like everything else, arise and pass away. Just by listening, you can experience the insight of impermanence, an understanding the Buddha taught as crucial for the development of wisdom.

Early morning is great for listening. Sounds start to slip into the stillness. In a rural setting, the sounds are likely to be those of birds and animals waking up. In a city, sounds of outside action begin-garbage collection, building construction, traffic. Even in the rarefied air of a high-rise hotel room, plumbing sounds and elevator sounds and footsteps in the hall pick up in pace.

Sit in a position in which you can be relaxed and alert. Close your eyes.

The stillness of your posture and the absence of visual stimuli both enhance hearing consciousness. People are sometimes surprised to discover how much sensory consciousness gets lost in the shuffle of distracted attention.

After your body is settled comfortably, just listen. Don't scan for sounds; wait for them. You might think of the difference between radar that goes out looking for something and a satellite dish with a wide range of pickup capacity that just sits in the backyard, waiting. Be a satellite dish. Stay turned on, but just wait.

At the beginning, you'll likely find that you are naming sounds, "door slam ... elevator ... footsteps ... bird ... airplane ... " Sometimes you'll name the feeling tone that accompanies the experience: "bird ... pleasant ... pneumatic drill ... unpleasant ... laughter ... pleasant ... " After a while, you may discover that the naming impulse relaxes. What remains is awareness of the presence or absence of sounds: "hearing ... not hearing ... sound arising ... sound passing away ... pleasant ... not pleasant."

Think of your listening meditation now as a wake-up exercise for your attention. However it happens-with names, without names, with feeling tone awareness or without-just let it happen. Don't try to accomplish anything. Just listen.

Sylvia Boorstein is a Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist, and author of That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist. "Sound Meditation" is excerpted from Don't Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein. Copyright © 1996 by Sylvia Boorstein. Used with permission from HarperCollins.


 
 
QUOTING FROM ONE OF THE TIBETAN MASTERS:

In Tibetan we call th
e essential nature of mind Rigpa—primordial, pure, pristine awareness that is at once intelligent, cognizant, radiant, and always awake. This nature of mind, its innermost essence, is absolutely and always untouched by change or death. At present it is hidden within our own mind, our sem, enveloped and obscured by the mental scurry of our thoughts and emotions. Just as clouds can be shifted by a strong gust of wind to reveal the shining sun and wide-open sky, so, under certain circumstances, some inspiration may uncover for us glimpses of this nature of mind. These glimpses have many depths and degrees, but each of them will bring some light of understanding, meaning and freedom.

This is because the nature of mind is the very root itself of understanding.
The heart of the whole thing is understanding. Not intellectual understanding, although that’s a way to begin. It’s deeply seeing into yourself. And that to me is different from concentration, which can of course facilitate such clear seeing. Many things help you with concentration, like chanting or bowing, so they can be useful parts of practice. But finally, there is no substitute for insightful seeing or for understanding how you create suffering for yourself; and in the process—in seeing into and through it - how to let go of it. It’s a life of awareness. 


Now, there’s a school of Zen that emphasizes just-awareness of what is, and I could easily have gone in that direction. That’s Soto Zen, and a practice called shikan-taza—just sitting—and when that ripens, that to me is mature practice. It’s nothing. You sit and you’re just totally attentive to what’s there.  Anapanasati, leads to that, to more and more simplicity until finally we don’t need techniques and methods, even the breath. [Anapanasati is where breathing is used as an exclusive object of attention to develop concentrated focus; then awareness grounded in the breathing is used to see clearly into the impermenant and empty nature of all formations. Letting go into freedom emerges into insight. 

"You can think of the nature of mind like a mirror, with five different powers or “wisdoms.” Its openness and vastness is the “wisdom of all-encompassing space,” the womb of compassion. Its capacity to reflect in precise detail whatever comes before it is the “mirrorlike wisdom.” Its fundamental lack of any bias toward any impression is the “equalizing wisdom.” Its ability to distinguish clearly, without confusing in any way the various different phenomena that arise, is the “wisdom of discernment.” And its potential of having everything already accomplished, perfected, and spontaneously present is the “all-accomplishing wisdom".--Sogyal Rinpoche
QUOTING FROM ONE OF THE TIBETAN MASTERS:

In Tibetan we call th
e essential nature of mind Rigpa—primordial, pure, pristine awareness that is at once intelligent, cognizant, radiant, and always awake. This nature of mind, its innermost essence, is absolutely and always untouched by change or death. At present it is hidden within our own mind, our sem, enveloped and obscured by the mental scurry of our thoughts and emotions. Just as clouds can be shifted by a strong gust of wind to reveal the shining sun and wide-open sky, so, under certain circumstances, some inspiration may uncover for us glimpses of this nature of mind. These glimpses have many depths and degrees, but each of them will bring some light of understanding, meaning and freedom.

This is because the nature of mind is the very root itself of understanding.
The heart of the whole thing is understanding. Not intellectual understanding, although that’s a way to begin. It’s deeply seeing into yourself. And that to me is different from concentration, which can of course facilitate such clear seeing. Many things help you with concentration, like chanting or bowing, so they can be useful parts of practice. But finally, there is no substitute for insightful seeing or for understanding how you create suffering for yourself; and in the process—in seeing into and through it - how to let go of it. It’s a life of awareness. 


Now, there’s a school of Zen that emphasizes just-awareness of what is, and I could easily have gone in that direction. That’s Soto Zen, and a practice called shikan-taza—just sitting—and when that ripens, that to me is mature practice. It’s nothing. You sit and you’re just totally attentive to what’s there.  Anapanasati, leads to that, to more and more simplicity until finally we don’t need techniques and methods, even the breath. [Anapanasati is where breathing is used as an exclusive object of attention to develop concentrated focus; then awareness grounded in the breathing is used to see clearly into the impermenant and empty nature of all formations. Letting go into freedom emerges into insight. 



With five different powers or “wisdoms.” Its openness and vastness is the “wisdom of all-encompassing space,” the womb of compassion. Its capacity to reflect in precise detail whatever comes before it is the “mirrorlike wisdom.” Its fundamental lack of any bias toward any impression is the “equalizing wisdom.” Its ability to distinguish clearly, without confusing in any way the various different phenomena that arise, is the “wisdom of discernment.” And its potential of having everything already accomplished, perfected, and spontaneously present is the “all-accomplishing wisdom".--Sogyal Rinpoche