Hearing. A sense we often take for granted. So many sounds coming and going in a moment, but so often we’re on auto-pilot, in our minds thinking about this, worrying about that, fantasizing, catastrophizing, or ruminating on past regrets. We often forget about this gift. For many of us, because of our brains and our ear drums we have this gift of audibility. Let this blog be a reminder to close your eyes and just pay attention to sounds. Why do this?
For one, sounds are happening right now and like the breath and body sensations can be something to anchor us to this present moment when our mind is headed in a direction of increasing distress. This is not to avoid what is uncomfortable in the moment, but to ground us so we can work with it effectively.
Paying attention to sounds also teaches us another lesson. In doing this we come to understand that our minds tend to want more of some sounds and want to get away from others. Just being aware of this can show us the process of clinging and aversion. When we cling to something in life (e.g., comfortable emotions) and those emotions pass, as they always will, the mind sets itself up for disappointment. Without an awareness of this process, the mind begins to judge the experience as bad or wrong and then begins to associate with all kinds of things that are bad and wrong about life and before you know it, it is stuck in a cycle of ruminating on things past or catastrophizing about future problems that aren’t even here. The same is true for aversion. When the mind is trying to get away from things that are unpleasant (e.g. uncomfortable emotions) it is in a constant battle and struggle, creating tension and dis-ease. Sometimes the wiser path is to learn to acknowledge things as they are in the moment, and knowing that even uncomfortable emotions come and go.
This is easier said than done, especially if you’ve suffered from traumas such as major depression or panic attacks which condition you to believe that uncomfortable emotions mean you are going to suffer that again. The difference here is that major depression and severe anxiety are a combination of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that interact with one another to escalate the situation. If we can practice “being with” the emotion as it arises, instead of kicking into auto-pilot and beginning to fuel it with clinging or aversion, it will eventually pass and we can begin to cultivate a greater sense of peace and harmony with ourselves.
Note: This is a process and a practice, even if you don’t realize the fruits right away; know this is like planting a garden and in sowing the seeds, eventually the fruits will come. Notice any resistance or judgments about it arising and also know that this is an old habitual reaction to keep things status quo. We can be aware of this, let it be, and gently bring our attention back to the practice.
Who knew hearing had such lessons to teach. So take a moment right now after reading this blog. Close your eyes, and just notice sounds. Notice them rising, notice them falling. Notice how the mind automatically wants to label and categorize them. It creates images to try and find a match as to what the sound is. When it wanders off, just notice that and bring your attention back to hearing. Do this for 1 minute or 5 minutes.
Enjoy the gift of hearing.
As always, please share your thoughts, questions, or stories below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
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From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (May 15, 2009)
Last reviewed: 15 May 2009