Meditate without silence

When we first start out with meditation, we all feel like there is a constant chatter in our heads, distracting us and reminding us of all the other things we need to do. Over time, we can quieten that chatter inside of our heads – but what about the noise outside of our heads? These days it seems like the only time you can find silence is at 3am, for ten minutes before the birds wake up! Even if you don’t live in the centre of a large city, there still seems to be a lot of noise around these days – from cars and lorries thundering by to people having conversations, next door’s TV or radio or children shouting in the garden. There’s noise everywhere!

It can be so annoying when you need to find a quiet spot and can’t. It can sometimes seem like the entire world is conspiring against you and your meditation practise. What can you do, to try and get away from the noise outside and concentrate on your mantra?

One great thing you can do is get hold of some good quality headphones, and use them to listen to some music. Not the latest chart-toppers, though! you need something quiet and calming, without words. Om Sanctuary is good for this, or you can search YouTube for “meditation music” or similar. Experiment to see which one works best for you. It should not be too distracting, and should be on very low so that it doesn’t disturb the object of your meditation (the object of your meditation is your mantra, or the breath if that’s what you are focusing on). Avoid things labelled “spiritual music” as they will often include their own mantras and chants that will distract you.

Another good idea is to wear ear plugs – but avoid the foam ones as they create a dreadful noise in the ears and are not that efficient at cutting out the noise – plus they can become uncomfortable. You can get wax ones or go to an outdoors shop for earplugs used by mountain climbers – these are great for blocking out noise and will stay put without becoming itchy and uncomfortable.

I’ve written before about Brahmari, or bumblebee breath. This can work well when wearing ear plugs; hum like a bumblebee on each out breath. It will cut out the noise but also take you on an inward journey. It sounds odd, but doing this can have a really soothing effect on your nervous system and quietens even the noisiest of minds! I recommend 5-10 minutes of Brahmari, followed immediately by your 20 minute meditation; you will find that it works wonders.

Another way to help you block out the noise from outside is to wrap yourself in a light coloured pashmina, so that you’re physically cocooned. It will help you to be warm and comfortable; as you close your eyes, imagine you are in a silent space and withdraw yourself into your imagination – like a tortoise retreating into its shell. This approach might be something you want to come to after practising for a while with Brahmari so that you’re more used to being able to retreat into your mind. With practise though, you’ll be able to sit in Times Square in New York and meditate as the hustle and bustle goes on around you!

Just like quieting your internal monkey mind takes time and practise, so does ignoring the noise from outside of your body. When you first begin, it can feel like you’ve no chance of ever finding silence either inside your head or outside. With both though, patience and practise will see you through.