Can anyone recommend a practice to overcome disturbing sounds. Many times when I meditate or turn inwards I am disturbed by a neighbors loud barking dogs or other loud sounds. I've tried doing visualization, clearing the space energy, Feng Shui mirrors, ear plugs (help to some degree), even talking to the neighbor but I seem to be often in irritation by this. The external disturbance is affecting my inner-commune. I also find my attention goes to that external sound and I feel tense/disturbed by the energy of it. I'd appreciate any ideas / thoughts on how to stay centered and undisturbed in the face of external disturbance / inconsiderate neighbors. Thanks in advance. Rich
You got to get to the bottom of this "disturbance" thing. Try changing the thing you are focusing on to the experience of the external "disturbance".
There is a sound(the dog barking) and then there is a feeling of disturbance? The more you just witness the sound of the dog barking as it happens, the less disturbing is happening. If you only witness the sound then how could you witness the disturbance? how could there even be a disturbance?
You know, once I was leading a meditation group when a whole bunch of laughing, screaming children came running through the room. Long story, that, but it wasn't an issue. Meditation happened. One of the things we have to learn, eventually, is that there are no external disturbances. There are only internal disturbances as our mind reacts to things with anger, outrage, irritation, or whatever. If it's not screaming kids or a barking dog or a low-flying plane, it will be a persistent itch or the hum of a fan or a cricket that's just a little bit off key. If the mind is looking to unsettle itself, the mind will find something to unsettle itself over, and it doesn't matter how big or small, how loud or quiet, how far or near that might be. The mind will seize on it and magnify it into a crisis.
The trick is to realize that the thinking mind wants to be unsettled, because when it's unsettled it has something to do. It can happily occupy itself complaining about or trying to solve whatever problem it has fixated on. When it does that, all we can do is sit with it like a parent with a child, and let it fuss itself to sleep. Part of what we're trying to do in meditation is teach the thinking mind that it doesn't have to fuss over every little violation of its expectations: that a dog can bark or a child can scream and it does not necessarily call for any action or reaction on your part at all. Of course, that equanimity doesn't come overnight, but keep it in mind as a standard for your practice.
The dog's bark has got to be the most distracting noise ever made. It is intended to get your attention.
Try thoroughly sound insulating the 'sitting' room. When the sound is sufficiently reduced, it is possible to introduce distraction by concentration on something interesting and to generate 'friendly vibrations' towards the dog. The dog is usually feeling lonely, left in the house/apartment all alone all day. It will respond to projected friendly thoughts. Sometimes. Those are the worst because they can bark all day/night long; at least the dog that is protecting its home will stop when the danger is gone.
With most other noises remembering that transience is the nature of all things will help. It isn't going to last forever.
It will also help for you to know that with time and practice you will soon enough be able to ignore sound. See this as a sign of your current state; your ability to concentrate needs to be strengthened. When you see it as your problem and not that it is a problem that is likely to be solved by trying to change the nature of dogs or their owners, half the problem will disappear.
Lowbrow's answer is also helpful. It gets to the essence.
When the screams of the world intrude, it's hard to feel blissful. And in the beginning of practice, one does need peace to develop. One needs a focus for meditation. We can't all summon the forest as dogs bark and neighbors squabble. Those sounds irritate us with memories of our own daily struggles. We crave peace and seek it in meditation.
But meditation initially requires a focus. And focusing on something that isn't readily available is very frustrating. It's hard to focus.
Some remedies include:
- Attend a retreat. Retreats leave us with a memory of peace that we can focus on in the noisy city.
- Listen to suttas as you sit. Suttas are not silent, but they are a perfectly fine and wholesome focus for your mindfulness. In this way, your practice Right Mindfulness attending to the words of the Buddha. And Right Mindfulness precedes Right Immersion, which is the eighth step in the Noble Eightfold Path.
- Listen to Buddhist chants as you sit. The chants are wholesome and you don't even need to understand them--they simply provide a wholesome focus.
- Focus on your breathing. This is mindfulness of the body.
- Use noise-cancelling headphones. These give a measure of distance so you can focus better. They are also a prop to be abandoned as your focus gets stronger.
- Meditate with a group for mutual support.
- Meditate on a koan or meaningful phrase as a focus.
- Abandon resentment and focus on love, compassion, rejoicing and equanimity.
May you become an island of peace for the world.