Listening to silence is a simple meditation exercise
Silence resides in the gap
between your thoughts, in the moments before and after sounds and also beneath sounds if you can hear constant noise. Few noises are permanent; most have gaps, however brief. You can observe silence with your eyes closed or you can try a silent watching meditation.
If you focus on your breath passing in and out of your lungs your thoughts begin to slow down and occasionally you will find you stop thinking.
At first, this feels weird! Persevere daily and you will develop a quiet place within where you can relax.
The quiet place within is always there although it can take practice to become aware of it. If you try too hard to stop thinking it can become harder still – the key is practice; patiently and effortlessly waiting for thoughts to subside. Like waiting for gaps between noises, allow thoughts to come without trying to control them and then let go. Instead of attaching to the thoughts; simply observe and they will disappear on their own. Similar to watching clouds drift, allow thoughts to come and go and wait for silent gaps.
Here are some examples of how to enjoy a silent watching meditation:
Try sitting with a plant or flower and listen to it grow! Notice how still it is.
Watch light fade and observe shadows. See clouds moving and the impact on light and temperature; silent watching – no labelling. Just allow.
Light a candle or incense stick and silently watch the smoke swirl. Health warning: take care of your breathing. Inhaling smoke from candles or incense sticks is not wise! Use adequate ventilation indoors or better still try outside.
Silently observe animals or pets, the way they move, often slowly, often silently – extremely alert, present in the moment.
Watch water flow, notice the movement, swirling, rushing, fast, still, listen to the sounds, notice light and dark, glistening, bubbling, colours and clarity.
Watch the wind blow, lifting leaves and moving trees, blowing clouds and carrying birds. Feel the breeze and experience the air with all the senses; notice the feeling on your skin and hair.
Silently watch ice melt and watch the patterns it creates as it shrinks and fades.
Watch the rain fall – the noise, colours, smells, temperature, gaps, shadows, puddles, reflections and the silence after falling. Notice how animals surrender to the rain.
Observe a candle fading, melting away from fire to nothing. Hot to cold. Solid to liquid and back to solid again.
Watch dew or condensation evaporate; mysteriously disappearing.
Silently watch birds fly and soar; how they twist and turn, eat, drink and sing. See how fast they are; incredible reactions and presence.
Watch time move; observe a second hand and listen to the gaps between ticks; mini pockets of silence still noticeable despite the ticks.
In all these examples notice how the “now” remains; the present moment is like a canvas on which all the above happens.
Sense the silence on waking first thing in the morning and last thing at night before sleeping. Listening to silence can help insomnia. If you can’t sleep, instead of thinking, try listening to silence. If your mind is full of thoughts – write them down and revert to silence. Sometimes if you lay absolutely still, even if not sleeping, your body gets rest.
Silent Watching Meditation can be practiced anytime during the day to allow you brief moments of quiet.
The more you sense the silence around and within, the more you notice it.
Listening to silence can feel weird at first. Initially you may feel an odd sensation at the back of your neck. After practice that goes. Persevere daily and you will develop a quiet place within where you can relax whenever you want to.
Make it effortless and it develops naturally.