When I practice meditation I focus on the rising and falling of my abdomen and if any thoughts or sensations arise I note them and continue focusing in the breath but I notice that I'm very sensitive to sound. I am acutely aware of all the sounds going on around which is a never ending cacaphony of nearby people, traffic, wildlife etc. I was using earplugs for a long time because I found it too distracting but I decided to stop using them and now I am finding the sounds very much in my awareness a lot of the time and I can't seem to focus on my breath. So I note "hearing hearing" but like how long am I suppose to keep noting hearing ? If I sit for an hour and the sounds keep capturing my attention do I just keep noting hearing hearing every few seconds in the same way I do for thinking thinking?

  • It's happening at its source but my ear picks it up as other people's ears do too. And your point is? – Arturia May 10 '17 at 21:43
  • It's irrelevant to my question so please start your own thread if you wish to philosophise about such things – Arturia May 11 '17 at 14:04

Distraction one of the two main obstacles in meditation (the other is dozing off or even falling asleep). Many people get distracted by sound.

It's normal and as long as you keep getting distracted you have two choices: 1) keep sitting there, and keep bringing your attention back to your meditation object 2) quit meditating. 3) change your meditation. (headphones, change in meditation object etc. see below)

There is no expected time limit within which you are supposed to stop being distracted. Distraction happens.

From the way you describe it - you don't just note the distraction and then get back to meditating. You are also getting annoyed at yourself. So note that too.

Patience. Patience. Patience. Remember that this is all part of the course & that as you are not living on a mountain somewhere, your conditions are not ideal. So be patient with yourself. I'll repeat myself again: be patient with yourself.

One alternative is that when you don't meditate with plugs (which I do think an excellent idea, btw), is to meditate on sound instead. That way the distraction has become the object. This may change the meditation dynamic.

Good luck. And remember: the fact that you are still regularly sitting there is in itself an achievement. Don't be too hard on yourself. And perhaps read something by Pema Chodron? She's very good at reminding us of being kind to ourselves.

  • 1
    I'm not sure there are only two choices. A third choice could be wear earplugs or noise cancelling headphones. Some people seem to think you shouldn't do this but I see no reason not to if it helps one enter a deeper state of meditation. – Arturia May 17 '17 at 21:47

The continuous and recurring effort to bring back your attention to a chosen object increases your concentration. So when there is a distraction, know your mind wandered away, look at sensations due to contact with this distracting object, then bring your attention back. Just keep repeating this cycle. This is Vitakka and Vicara.


So I note "hearing hearing" but like how long am I suppose to keep noting hearing?

Noting is probably not so relevant because, unlike a hindrance or thought, noting the sound will not make the sound go away. Unlike thoughts & hindrances, the arising & ceasing of the sound is beyond the mind's control.

If I sit for an hour and the sounds keep capturing my attention do I just keep noting hearing hearing every few seconds in the same way I do for thinking thinking?

Listening is an excellent way to develop samadhi. I personally would naturally listen to the sounds rather than resist them. This may bring an expected favorable outcome when the mind & ears start to tune into the 'sound of silence'.

  • "Don't resist" is good advice for cold conditions also. – user2341 May 10 '17 at 1:44

Just like a security guard in front of the mall's door, he know that a visitor is coming in but he doesn't care about what the visitor is going to do inside the mall. He didn't take "note" he just "know"

Until you reached the Nirodha, You will always hear a voice because you can't close your ears. Just don't pay attention to the sound.

Just like every object of meditation, you need to be relax while doing meditation.

I have a lot of acquaintance that used to have the same problem as you and now they don't have any problem with noise.

You might want to check out Dhammasukha Meditation Center. They have online retreat for free and they'll guide you in meditation.


One does not have to give attention to distractions like noise. One does not have to take a note. One needs to just observe. Response to external stimuli is built inside human mind for survival. When one watches breath mind starts dissolving and its ability to respond to external stimuli also goes down. Thoughts, emotions, and sensual responses of the body will start slowing down and that is a good sign of progress.


emphasized textMay be It's a fault of your Kammattana.It seems you had practiced anapanasathi.If you change your Kammattana may be you can get good result.If you want to know about more suitable kammattana you will definitely meet kammattanacharya.

  • No clue what you're talking about – Arturia May 12 '17 at 21:20
  • @Arturia 'Kammattana' means the 40 forms of meditation, as discussed in Olivia's recent Question. (this tablet has no way to paste a link here) Answers discuss various temperaments which make different forms of meditation more suitable for various people. Normally one's Guru would determine this. – user2341 May 14 '17 at 3:04
  • @Arturia I'm not saying this was a right or wrong answer to your question, but to explain it, there's some explanation of kammattanacharya in for example the answers to this question: How can we choose more congenial Kammattana? -- I think that Olivia is suggesting that the object of meditation could be something other than, for example, "the rising and falling of my abdomen" which you're practicing at the moment. – ChrisW May 16 '17 at 10:22

Hearing is sound, meeting ears, giving rise to Vinñana (individually knowing things); This is called contact (passa).

When this happens, you are supposed to think that these three things (ears, sound and vinñana) are impermanent (anicca), thus sorrowful (dukkha), thus not me, mine or my soul (anatta). Then, let go of your cetana/kamma (sankhara) toward it by "gift" (chaga).

Rising and falling of abdomen isn't a meditation technique Buddha has preached.

  • Ah nobody really knows100% that he even existed so you can't really say that you know what he taught. Rising and falling is what Mahasi Sayadaw taught to help students focus on the breath. – Arturia May 12 '17 at 21:22

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