Easy Ways to Meditate: Listening Meditation

Here’s what a lot of people think when they think of meditating:

  • Be in a quiet room
  • Sit in a really uncomfortable position while your feet slowly fall asleep
  • Force yourself to stop thinking
  • Uncontrollably starting thinking about dinner, or worrying about work, or wondering what your husband is doing and, boom, you’ve flunked meditating
  • Beat yourself up for a few minutes before giving up

Here’s how I like to describe it instead:

  • Imagine your mind is a puppy, running all over the room looking for something to chew on
  • Give the puppy a chew toy
  • Enjoy the quiet
  • If the puppy starts chewing the couch cushions again, gently lead it back to the chew toy
  • Repeat the last two steps until your timer – real or internal – goes off

Here then is one of my favorite chew toys.

It’s a listening meditation, and it is, as my kids say, easy peasy lemon squeezy. You can do it anywhere—on an airplane, on the bus, in the dentist’s chair or while lying in bed awake in the middle of the night. Wherever you are, no one will know you’re doing it.

To do it, you simply set an intention to notice every sound that comes across your eardrums. Think of a tape recorder: It picks up every single sound, whether it’s a hum of the overhead light, someone’s voice or a leaf blower across the street. In this exercise, you are basically a human tape recorder.

When you start thinking about something, bring your attention back to what you can hear.

It can be helpful to set a timer – I recommend starting with a small amount of time, like two minutes, and moving up from there. But if wondering when the timer will go off makes you anxious, trust yourself to know how long to stay with it. If you set an intention to simply listen and to re-commence listening whenever you get off track, you can’t do this wrong.

I can promise that you will notice far more layers of sound than you were aware of before you started this exercise. And that’s one of the reasons I love it—it helps you see that there is always more going than whatever thing we are choosing to pay attention to. It also shows you that even in the midst of the biggest drama, you could choose to focus on something that grounds you in the here and now, such as the sound of your breath, or the chirping of birds outside the window.

Ready to give it a go? You can do it on your own right now.

Or, if you’d like to immerse yourself in the sounds of summer, here is a one-and-a-half-minute audio I recorded last August. Listen to it twice and you’ve done three minutes.