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THe most successful cultivators and Buddhists cultivated in the forest or mountains where there are few people. In our day and age, this is less easy due to polluted rivers, overharvesting of resources, financial necessity, etc. and we all live in noisy metropolises.

"Go to a quiet place without people, sit cross-legged, with correct body and correct attention, without any other thoughts, and fix the attention on the nose:.."

For a beginner, this is not ideal, although advanced meditators who are enjoying the fruit of their efforts are fully absorbed with their meditation object, not hearing any noise.

How do you handle loud, meaningful and ultimately alarming family noises while trying to focus on meditation object? What are trains of thoughts that lead you to the state where you do not even understand what they are saying because you are so absorbed in your object? I experience this frequently, where I don't hear or feel anything and I am singularly focused on my object and this oftentimes happens when I do any type of noting (vipassana) practice. Any tricks, contemplations, ideas any experienced cultivators can give me?

loud = clearly audible through a door, 10 times louder than the sound of your own breathing (which I like to use as a concentration object) meaningful = language and emotion, which we as social mammals are instinctively wired to respond to when hearing off-handedly, particularly our mirror neurons

Basically I have an annoying, unhealthy family who watches TV with all their free time and never cultivates or does anything despite the many instructions, books given to them. I feel that they often do this to spite me due to my choice to ignore them.

Please give solutions other than blocking out the noise through noise-cancellation, earplugs, or binaural beats (all of which are excellent suggestions) which I have success with and will continue to use but I do not like unnecessary pressure on my ears.

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Understand what happens. Sound comes in contact with the ear which re recognise as such and such or voice of so and so. This creates a reaction which creates sensations to which you react with craving or aversion. In the above case you are reacting with aversion. When sound in the dominant input focus on the ear area for sensations. If the sound is very loud it might hurt the ear also but even in other cases when you practice you get some sensation. This has a mental reaction and thought proliferation. This gives arise to sensations in the head area. This should be your secondary focus. If you look closely you will see this creates vibration and sensation all over the body. This should be your tertiary focus. When you start you will not be able to even sense anything around the ear unless very intense but as you go on you will be able to see the vibration through out the body. This comes with practice.

What ever sensation you should not react to it.

Each time your mind gets distracted by the sound or any other sense input do the following:

  1. Recognise the object of attention to which the mind has wandered away and note it without verbalisation or imagination (i.e., without creating mental fabrications): Sense input or mental chartering, etc.
  2. There is a sensation tided to this object being in focus: it can be intellectual stimulation if it is an thought, some other sensation if the body, etc.
  3. Analysing, mental reaction and through proliferation may have created sensations around your head and rest of the body. So note these sensations.
  4. Bring back your mind to your chosen object of attention. This can be extended even when doing normal tasks.
  5. Each stage try to calm the fabrications. Lesser fabrications more concentrated you get.
  • Good for vipassana but not samatha? – ruben2020 Jan 8 '15 at 9:05
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    Good for both actually if you your goal in Samantha is gaining concentration. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Jan 8 '15 at 9:49
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    Wow, great response. From my experience this works even better with vipassana practice but I can now see how calming fabrications would help any meditation practice. Also I think I'm just more sensitive lately since I got a fever and chills a few days ago. – Ahmed Jan 8 '15 at 18:11
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This happens to me all the time...My mom has the habit of inviting over my aunty to the house and with her come her children and grandchildren and there goes a round of joy and laughter all day long...Suminda has given a very nice advice of being mindful of the sound and not reacting...This is the best but a long haul solution to the problem...I am trying it and it is giving results.

For the short term, I would advise you to check their schedule...Now they must be sleeping at some point of time...This is you Golden Chance...Squeeze out 1 hour from that duration and carry on your practice.

Also since they have disapproved of your practice, I would advise that save your practice from undue negative attention of theirs and let your behaviour speak for you practice.

Also you could try Walking Meditation.

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Might I suggest practicing metta. When you feel annoyed towards your family, start cultivating the reverse, by thinking: "May my family be happy and well". It will start small, but with repetition it will build up just like the skills learned in vipassana practice.

Of course this won't change your family's behaviour, but it's excellent medicine for you. After all, who wants to be annoyed? Those who haven't considered the 2nd noble truth, that's who ;-)

Maybe another note would be to make your practice unnoticeable to your family. Not that there is anything wrong with them observing you as you practice, but I have sabotaged myself many times while considering how others would regard my practice.

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    I'm closed and locked up in my room so they cannot observe me. It is quite comfortable in my room, I have a air filter to filter out cooking smells, etc. I'm practically in heaven, except the noise. Metta is important but my annoyance is not that strong. As mentioned in Suminda's answer, its important to avoid content analysis and fabrication, it ultimate solves the problem by disabling the interpretive process itself and I don't even notice the sound. I've been doing it more recently and it's amazing how many thoughts happen from a simple sensation. – Ahmed Jan 9 '15 at 19:43
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My mum's father was a writer (a playwright and novelist) who worked (wrote) at home. Her mother wouldn't let the children play outside his office/study door because their noise would distract him. Later in life, he (my grandfather) clarified that he didn't mind his children playing outside his door: what he found too distracting was if they were fighting or crying outside his door.

I interpret that is meaning that he was OK to let his children live their lives (even noisily) while he worked, provided that they didn't need him (to intervene in their fighting with each other).

In other words, some family noises might be loud and meaningful without being necessarily alarming.

Reaction to noise (dislike, anger) is more unpleasant than the noise itself. I admit that I found constant loud radio problematic in the past.

Your paragraph "Basically I have an annoying, unhealthy ... my choice to ignore them" seems to me like it might be an unhealthy relationship. I suppose I should recommend you talk with a family/relationship counsellor about that. There's nothing on the "Buddhism meta" site about this, but I'd suggest that this site should adopt the same policy as the Christianity site: Pastoral Advice Questions

How do you handle loud, meaningful family noises while trying to focus?

My family are accustomed to giving each other quiet space/time in which to work (or to read, or meditate, etc.), so that's not a problem for me.

Please give solutions other than etc.

One solution would be to (try to) improve your family dynamic. A family/relationship counsellor (or a wise family member or friend) might be able to help with that.

Other solutions (some of which may depend on having a cooperative family dynamic):

  • Have scheduled (not constant) time for noise and time for quiet
  • Turn the TV volume down even if you don't turn it off
  • Get them to wear the headphone if they're making noise
  • Close the door, sound-proof the room you're in
  • Use some white noise generator in your room (e.g. the sound of rain)
  • Practice elsewhere (in a safe public area)
  • Thank you for your kind consideration. A family counseler is not necessary, the issue is not that big, I simply don't like who they are and I know I will not benefit from their ignorant preoccupations and distractions. I want to focus on my career and my cultivation and finding my community rather than changing people. It's taken me a while to learn this about my life. Anywa, white noise is really great! I totally forgot about it especially all the isochronic youtube videos! Thanks for the reminder. – Ahmed Jan 8 '15 at 19:58

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