I want to start practising meditation, but breathing exercises extremely psyche me out. I find any activity that involves intensely focusing on a part of my body distressing, sometimes nauseating. So the traditional "focus on your breath" mindfulness meditations aren't really ideal for me.

I like the idea of meditating listening to sound, for example the sound of rain or waves on my phone. But I'm completely new to meditation and am not sure how best to implement this practice. Should I wear over ear headphones, or is it best to have the music ambient and not directly my ear? Should I be sitting up or lying in bed? (I don't really have any other comfortable spots in my house besides my bed.) Should it be light, dark or semi-dark? Eyes open or closed etc.?

The basic question I'm asking is: what are the best practices and practicalities for mindfulness meditation using sound?

  • There are no rules. Either a method works for you or it doesn't. If you root around you'll find all sorts of approaches and methods. I tend to think mindfulness is best practiced while going about your everyday business and am a fan of the simplicity of Zen sitting, but each to their own. We all start in different places. . . , .
    – user14119
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 10:20
  • It is best to meditate in a position that is not conducive to sleep. That is the only reason lying down is not recommended. The straight posture of the spine is said to be important. Eyes can be closed to avoid distractions, but Tibetans meditate with open eyes,so it may be your choice; eyes could be half open, not focused on anything. How about mantra meditation in which the sound is internal? Think of it as "sounding" the mantra in your mind. Or else chant it aloud and rest the attention on the sound. The important thing is concentrating on an object, in this method.
    – KayCee
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 18:36

4 Answers 4


Sound is a valid object of mindfulness, one of the six sense objects, part of the fourth foundation of mindfulness:

"He understands the ear, he understands sounds and he understands the fetter that arises dependent on both; and he also understands how there comes to be the arising of the unarisen fetter, and how there comes to be the abandoning of the arisen fetter, and how there comes to be the future non-arising of the abandoned fetter." (MN 10, Bodhi trans.)

The point here is to observe sounds as something that gives rise to potential fetters (liking, disliking, conceit, possessiveness, etc.). Through mindfulness, one understands sound as merely sound, as impermanent, unsatisfying, non-self, and one relinquishes craving in regards to sound.

In my tradition, we remind ourselves "hearing, hearing..." as a means of cultivating mindfulness.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 18:23

I listen to the suttas. Listening to the suttas fulfills many meditation requirements.

the mendicant thinks about and considers the teaching in their heart, examining it with the mind as they learned and memorized it. Or a meditation subject as a basis of immersion is properly grasped, attended, borne in mind, and comprehended with wisdom. --dn33/en/sujato

You can choose a sutta to listen to using SuttaCentral Voice Assistant, which offers almost 4000 suttas available in Pali and/or English. The suttas can also be downloaded for offline listening.

If you are interested in memorizing a sutta, you can choose to walk meditation on a fixed route. This integrates your memory of the sutta with a physical place and will allow you to "walk the sutta" in your mind at any time you choose.

Having counted my breaths during meditation for over a decade, I now prefer to listen to suttas during walking meditation. I currently listen to DN33. It is two hours long. Choose a sutta that suits your interest. They are all instructions of the Buddha.


I'd skip designing a sound-based approach and go with shikantaza or Silent Illumination. You can learn these at Soto Zen or Chan practices centers or from teachers. They are types of zazen and should fit your needs. The advantage of going with an already existent meditation is the support and having others for further questions, guidance etc.


In Buddhism, "right mindfulness" means " to remember to keep" the mind free from attachment, craving & other unwholesome states.

In Buddhism, "right mindfulness" does not mean "focusing on breathing".

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