quiet mindfulnessNoise when meditating is enough to make some people’s blood boil!

We try to find a quiet place to sit, but that is not always possible. There is never perfect quiet in this imperfect world.

Sometimes it can even seem like the world is conspiring against us – deliberately trying to create noise where once there was quiet!

But the reponse to noise is an interesting area…..

Why is it that the noise bothers one person, but not the person beside them? Why is it that one person responds with aversion, the other with equanimity?

If we have done everything we can to find a quiet place to sit, but we still find that noise does bother us in meditation, it may be time to look to ourselves.

I am reminded of a story one of my teachers told:

A man was sat quietly in a shrine room meditating – developing loving kindness for himself and all living beings.

Outside the cleaner was sweeping up rather noisily, and engaging in raucous chit chat with her neighbour over the road.

The man continued to meditate but eventually anger got the better of him. He stood up, opened the door and shouted to the cleaner, “Can you please shut up! I’m trying to develop loving kindness in here!”, and slammed the door….

When we meditate together we have a chance to be still together. Something magical happens in that stillness. And if we need to move, we can move quietly – because we know others are trying to meditate, and we know that a quiet atmosphere benefits meditation. Moving with awareness also brings our practice of mindfulness into our own actions, so it benefits us too.

But if noise intrudes from outside – if a colleague needs to cough, or seems to be breathing heavily, and so on – we do not need to respond with aversion. As soon as the commentary about the noise (the cough, the breathing) begins – we have moved into a concept, into a story. We are no longer with what is actually happening.

Of course in practice it’s not that easy. Aversion usually arises and takes control of us before we become aware of it. But when we do, we can gently try to move out of the story and back into the present experience.

That might mean returning to the body, or the breath, or whatever it is we are supposedly concentrating on. But maybe it could also mean becoming aware of the sound of the hammer, the cough, the colleague’s clothes rustling, our friend’s heavy breathing.

In this way, what seemingly caused the response could be the doorway to returning to the present moment.


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Dealing with Noise when Meditating
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