How Quiet Does It Need To Be To Meditate?
By Susan Eoff on November 20, 2011
My ego use to think that I actually needed silent-quiet to meditate. Nice try ego, silent-quiet is more difficult to obtain than meditation for most of us. Meditation and stillness are found inside, so the work is to find your inward awareness in spite of the outer world. The ego loves to find any excuse it can for not being sidelined. Yes, the inward work is to train the ego to take a time out and see what else exists besides mental chatter.
A quiet atmosphere is most often preferred for the inward journey, but it isn't a requirement. I see Sadhus meditating on the sidewalks in the middle of the city in India. The ashram itself is rarely silent-quiet with kitchen sounds, birds chirping, celing fans, people coming and going, traffic in the distance, other temples sounding their practices, and more. Quiet has become 2-4 items (or more) on the list. Like everything, it just takes practice and a desire to focus inwardly. There is a guaranteed that the attention will wander, so use moderate-quiet to practice concentration as a stepping stone to meditation and to inner peace while going about the activities of your day.
Fun article/story on meditating in India.
Please Meditate: Parents, Too
I recently posted one of my typically friendly (but sometimes annoying) reminders to meditate on Facebook, along with the link to ABC's article which proclaims meditation to be as obviously relevant to good health as nutrition and regular exercise.
A couple of my Facebook friends who are also moms both posted similarly frustrated comments, lamenting about the difficulty of meditating with the loudness of wild young children at home.
I realized that I don't have a problem meditating in noise, crowds, airports, buses, or even with loud and sometimes interrupting children. I had to look at that: where did this strange ability come from? At the heart of the matter is the late great sage of meditation, Lester Levinson, who famously said, "Can I allow things to be other than the way I think they should be?" Also, Eckhart Tolle espouses the simple yet profound encouragement to "allow what is without resistance."
In fact, Eckhart has spoken at length about meditation practice and children. His most poignant recommendation, from my point of view, is not to yell harshly at your child when they interrupt your meditation practice. You are sitting quietly on your silk pillow, breathing, perhaps repeating a mantra silently. A child bursts in the room screaming and tackles you. How do you react? Scold? Ignore? Hug?
A meditation practice is just that: practice. Practice for what? Practice for life. It is practice for dealing with life as peacefully and receptively as possible, not just superficially, but on the inside, too. So if your child interrupts your practice, it's no longer practice, it becomes real. Therefore hug the child, love the child, and if you can, resume your practice afterward. If you can't resume your practice, whether it is energy cultivation or silent sitting, then practice is over and the game is on. How loving, receptive, and calm can you be in real life? Can you have boundaries without being reactive or emotionally volatile? Can you bring the principles of a meditative practice into your parenting style?
On my second trip to India, my meditation teacher felt it was in my best interest to sit in the basement of the ashram for several hours a day first in a mantra practice, and then sitting in silence. This kind of meditation is my idea of sheer heaven: the peace, the depth, the inner quiet are so blissful. Except that just outside of the ashram was a graveyard, and wandering that graveyard shouting out prayers to Shiva for his own personal reasons until sunset was a devoted older man gifted not only with loud voice that carried well, but also gifted with a bullhorn. It was through that bullhorn that he shouted his prayers to Shiva. One early morning, I wandered out to this gentleman in the graveyard and asked him why he shouted, and why the bullhorn? He told me that Shiva was more likely to hear him if he was as loud as possible. He said it with the sweetest smile that I realized there was nothing more for us to talk about. He was on a sincere mission, and I loved his devotion to it. "I understand. Thank you. I know Shiva will hear you." I told him.
Directly on the other side of the little ashram was a wedding celebration center. In India, weddings can last as long as five days, and they are serious about their celebration. They are beautiful, ornate, full of joy, and constantly accompanied by dancing music. I learned that many Indian newlyweds love to have Celine Dion and Cher alternately played all day and night through surprisingly high-tech speakers that seem to penetrate thick walls -- as though they don't even exist.
Sitting in meditation in the basement of the ashram, my friend blasting his prayers to Shiva on one side, and a very happy bride and groom with all of their loved ones pleasantly rocking out to "I'm Alive" and then "My Heart Will Go On," I experienced a deep surrender. As soon as I let go of resisting the sounds around me, I not only stopped giving them attention, but they disappeared deeply into the background, passing through my awareness like a cloud passes peacefully through a sky. It was such a relief to stop resisting what was unchangeable. (Well, perhaps I could have changed it, but that would have required great effort. And I had no desire to rain on anyone else's beautiful journey.)
It's since then that I can meditate no matter the noise level. And now that I, too, have children who like to be children, this "allowing" really comes in handy.
Please join me on my YouTube channel for silent meditation practice. I have experienced that it can be done at practically any noise level.