Some people get very annoyed if there isn't perfect silence when they are meditating. Their thought process goes something like this: "I am trying to find perfect peacefulness inside myself—so please, everyone, shut up!" This is unfortunate.
First of all, there are very few places in the world that are silent. Even in the wilderness, you will often hear the sound of traffic in the distance or an airplane overhead. And even if you could find somewhere where there were no human or mechanical sounds, you would soon realize that nature itself is far from silent.
It is better to just accept that there is noise and that you are going to meditate in it. Of course, you may find some of that noise distracting. If you notice that you are distracted, just bring your mind back to your breathing. Think of it as good practice.
For example, if your phone rings while you are doing a Basic Minute, you might be annoyed at first at the interruption and struggle not to answer. You might wonder who is calling you. With practice, you won't even pause to wonder who it is. You will have learned to stay present and focused in whatever you are doing. You will have learned that it's okay sometimes to be unavailable to others—because you are busy being available to yourself. This will actually make you much more available to others when you want to be, because you will know how to give them your full attention.
As you practice and become more centered in your breathing, the sounds around you will not be so irritating...you might even welcome them. I learned so much about this from my friend Randy Hostetler, a pianist and composer who used "found sounds" (squeaks, whistles, beeps and buzzes) in his compositions. Spending time with him was like getting an education in the appreciation of sound. He died quite young, but in his short life he taught many people to listen to the world with a sense of reverence and delight. At his funeral, his grandmother said, "Randy never heard noise—he only heard music."
The point of this is that we can experience the sound around us not as interference in our lives, but as an expression of the life from which we are not separate. From a certain perspective, one that I think Randy understood, all the sounds of the universe are elements of one symphony.
Even thought it's helpful when you first start practising the Basic Minute to have some degree of silence (and to find some degree of solitude), please don't be overzealous about this. You really don't need to turn the world into a meditation retreat just so you can be peaceful. Meditation is about embracing the world, not wishing it away.
In other words, discovering peacefulness within you does not depend on everything around you being peaceful. It's actually the other way around. The more peacefulness you find within you, the more peacefulness you bring to the world...and the more peacefulness you find there too.
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Martin Boroson is a playful, practical new voice in the next wave of meditation teachers. Author of
One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go, he lectures on the benefits of a meditative mind for decision-making and leadership. Marty studied philosophy at Yale, earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is a formal student of Zen. Visit his website for One-Moment Meditation® help and resources you can also tweet him at @takeamoment or find him on Facebook
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