Technotox is honoured to have the support of Mind Space and its founder Adam Dacey, who today becomes our first guest writer with an article about cultivating a quiet mind and the art of mindful listening.
It’s So Quiet Here!
At the live evening classes that I teach it’s common for participants to say at the end of the first class,
‘I had many thoughts and was so distracted when I was trying to Meditate’
The experience of peace, calm and inner quiet does not arise simply because we decide to start Meditating. Sometimes through making too much effort to attempt to quieten the mind, we can push the experience even further away.
One teacher I have, spent 12 years in retreat. When he had finished he concluded that the most effective method to quieten the mind, was to sit and observe what is happening, the sounds around us, the thoughts in our mind. Mentally step back and observe. Not to add more, to what is already there. Or to try to control what is happening.
The mind is by nature peaceful, but we add noise with our thoughts, plans, worries and ideas.
In the same way that the earth is naturally peaceful, yet overtime with it’s development we have added more noise.
It was a busy, Sunday, late afternoon in Brick Lane, as the Indian Restaurants were opening up for the evening trade, the market stalls were closing. I walked into a coffee shop, immediately struck by the ambience, it was quiet and peaceful. There were two people working on their laptops whilst the barista cleaned the counter.
I commented ‘it’s nice in here, lovely and peaceful.’
‘Yes’ replied the smiling barista, ‘don’t worry, I was just about to put some music on.’ Around thirty seconds later some deep bass rhythms provides us with a new backdrop for our Sunday relaxation.
Generally wherever we go now in public places there is additional noise.
Psychologists will tell you that some music makes the customer happy to buy and feel relaxed with spending more.
However whether you add more sound to your experience or not, there is always some form of sound to hear.
I was guiding a Mindful Listening practice with a group of seven year old children recently. We begin by sitting still and simply being attentive of all the sounds around us. Spending two minutes just listening.
After this the students wrote down all the different sounds that they could hear. I suggested to listen to the sounds outside the room, then the sounds inside the room and finally the sounds within their body.
When the time was up the students shared what they had heard.
The hum of the room, the sound of a dog, the passing traffic, the breathing of their friend next to them, someone swallowing…
Then one student said. ‘You know what I heard?’ ‘I could hear the sound of silence.’
All the students immediately stopped and naturally reflected on these words.
After hearing this another student said: ‘Yes, I heard the sound of nothingness!’
Great insightful, observations. Try the practice for yourself.
Listening is one of the first Meditation practices introduced, a skill that will provide us with a stable foundation for our training, a tool that can immediately allow us to access the present moment and essential for maintaining healthy relationships.
Less is more. Sometimes we don’t need to add more sounds. The sound is already there. Through listening attentively we can gain a whole new experience of our existence.
We can start to enjoy the different types of silence.
We can become so used to noise that when we experience silence we become slightly uncomfortable.
One of the most silent places I visited was Death Valley in Arizona. Upon arrival we stopped and gazed down into the valley. There was no sound. It was a powerful experience until someone commented. ‘It’s so quiet.‘ Proceeding to start a conversation about how quiet it was and how noisy life was back home.
The need for noise often arises from the noise and busyness within our own mind.
If we can spend time listening to the sounds around and within us and then gradually observing the flow of our thoughts in an objective way, we can start to experience a quiet within.
This experience of quiet isn’t imposed it arises naturally from the mind when it’s allowed to settle.
We can’t turn on silence, like we turn on music, it occurs when we mentally step back and simplify.
When our mind becomes quiet and calm, then all is well in our world. An experience of contentment arises from within. Naturally we seek and need less as we are nourished by an inner peace.
Whether we are in the city or the county if we have a quiet mind then we can be content.
We do not need an additional soundtrack continually playing in our life, if we are attentive we can listen to what is inside and outside of us at anytime, thus bringing focus, clarity and presence.
If we work on training our mind, one day we will look inside our mind and see that the busy noise and traffic of distracting thoughts has finally subsided. At this point we may be tempted to say to ourself: ‘its quiet in here!’, but we will just let this thought pass like a cloud in the sky.
Learn more about Mindful listening here.
Adam Dacey has been training and teaching Meditation since 1994, beginning at a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas of Nepal. In 2008 he founded Mind Space and then in 2009 the Meditation in Schools Project. He has delivered extensive live Meditation classes and retreats in schools, universities, hospitals, businesses and government organisations throughout Europe, India & the USA. The Online Training which he offers has seen two million people from 220 different countries practicing and benefitting from these techniques.