From Words to Sounds to Silence: a Buddhist Meditation

Meditating is hard. Many yogis who have been practicing for years still have trouble detaching from the distractions of the outer world and silencing their inner voice on command. Simply sitting still and trying to shift into “meditation mode” is extremely difficult. On the other hand, guided meditation can sometimes be effective but it can also become a gimmicky crutch. 

Yesterday, we did a Buddhist meditation that I think is just the right mix of guided and natural. I tried to find out more about it from an online source somewhere so I could share with you, but could not locate anything. Luckily, it is very simple to explain. I found it to be particularly effective because it first allows you to acknowledge the world around you before you sort of transcend, so it is ideal for loud spaces where quiet meditation would otherwise be difficult. For me, it also led to some pretty vivid perceptions in the third phase.

From Words to Sound to Silence

This is a three part meditation – split your allotted meditation time into three equal portions. We spent thirty minutes with ten minutes on each section, but you could easily do half of that. If you are guiding a class through this, simply explain the three sections before beginning but try not to speak once the practice has begun. You can “om” or use an instrument to indicate when it is time to shift to the next section.

Come into a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes. Bring the hands to the knees and acknowledge your breath. For the first third of the practice, you will focus solely on your breathing. Feel the belly expand with each inhale and contract with each exhale. Notice how the breath feels. Visualise the prana (literally this means life force – here, you can imagine the air) flowing in through your nose, down your trachea, into your lungs. You can also imagine you are breathing directly into your belly button if that helps you to expand your breathing.

For the second part, focus on the sounds you hear. Notice where they come from, if they are moving, what they sound like, who is making them. Create a visualisation of the world around you based on your aural perceptions. Just for fun, since I’m in such a foreign environment, here’s what I heard… First I heard rain falling on the palm roof of the shala. There was Indian flute music in the distance. Crows flew by to my right. A bicycle bell and some kids playing down to my left on the street. A motorcycle drove by in the distance behind me, and a truck with a festive horn. The girl to my right shifted. The rain slowed, and I heard footsteps where the kids were playing. Soon, festival music came from the temple straight ahead in the distance (still celebrating Ganesh’s birthday) and some joyful yelling and singing. Then the Tibetan cymbals rang, signifying the end of this portion of the practice.

For the last portion, focus on silence. Feel yourself separating from the aural world you have created, almost as though you are floating above. Make a space for yourself in which there is nothing but your true being. You are one with existence, so you need not perceive it around you. You can simply sense it humming and vibrating.