February 28, 2012

Meditation Month: The Joys of Listening

I find great joy in listening to the sounds around me when sitting. The heat whistling through the radiator, the cars passing on the streets, the cracks in the floor, etc. Each small, unrecognizable sound becomes larger and larger, until I reach the point of 'my god, I can't believe I'm swallowing so loud!'

For me, the ear takes in a treasure trove of little symphonies that can only be picked up once I've sat in silence for a long time; once these sounds are heard, I find it hard not to be totally infatuated. I suppose it's similar to meditating facedown in a lawn; you really can't appreciate the grassy microcosm until you're face-to-face with the dirt and gaze in awe at the complex ecological system we hardly ever care to see.

When meditation teachers give instruction to listen to the breath I usually ignore them(sorry), not only because I breathe way too soft, but also because my understanding is that if I pay too much attention to one sound, I lose my connection with everything else around me. I certainly feel my breath as it passes in and out of my lungs, but I pay most attention to the outside world. I try not to think 'thats a car' as the car passes, or 'that's my knee cracking' as I shift my position (again, Zendo, sorry). I appreciate the noise for what it is and try to keep my ears in the present.This is a rare delicacy, and I'm glad I have meditation to indulge in such audial 'presents'.

I wish there was a way to maintain a listening presence in the world. Paying attention in some ways excludes that; we listen to words, give them meaning, and delve into our minds searching for adequate retorts, all the while closing off our ears. Hearing everything leaves no room for mental formations, and witty reply, does it?

The daily dharma today gives an interesting take on the inseperable connections between sentient beings and on unique identity:

"The life that flows through each of us and through everything around us is actually all connected. To say that, of course, means that who I am really cannot be separated from all the things that surround me. Or, to put it another way, all sentient beings have their existence and live within my life." -Kosho Uchiyama Roshi

There is an interesting discussion to be had here regarding our responsibility to be present, and our duty to think for ourselves and to engage in the world. I'm going to sit on this one for a while.

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