Sound has large part to play in meditation whether it is through the deliberate and concerted focus upon its presence or absence or whether it is through the inadvertent focus upon the beating of ones heart or repetition of a mantra, as your meditation develops.
Meditating with sound is different to meditating with music as the latter implies choosing and meditating to the accompaniment of sounds arranged in specific patterns to evoke certain emotions. Sound is generally taken to sensual impression that occurs as air waves resonate with the human ear drum, when these sounds are not primarily created deliberately for their own sake. Common sounds involve speech, the movement of bodies and objects, vehicle traffic and so on.
Sounds can be experienced as a nuisance (like the sound of heavy machinery early in the morning) or as something pleasant (like birdsong). During meditation sound is often a nuisance, but can be turned to ones advantage by simply letting uninvited sounds wash over you, whilst you gradually become detached from them. In this way you will gradually note the sounds becoming more distant.
Sound of Silence
One common exercise is meditating upon the ‘sound of silence’. In doing this you all become deeply aware of your own natural rhythm and of your interconnectedness with the world. When you have eradicated background noise (and this can be more easily achieved in a quiet place) you will note your heart beating loudly as it pumps blood around your body. You may also note a humming outside yourself that equates with the pulse of the world and the Universe. Such an exercise firstly points to the relativity of our experience: Our heart beat often seems inaudible due to so much background interference, whilst in actual fact it is central to our being, and our connection to the wider Universe. Our 'inner sound' or vibration, which can only be accessed when the mind is fully stilled, is the final sound we are aware of when all other interference has abated and, as such, represents the true state of our existence.
The Sound of Om
‘Om’ is a word and syllable sound widely used as a Mantra in meditation across different disciplines (see related article ‘Meditation and Mantras’). Many Eastern mystics and religious practitioners believe that each person has a natural pitch and duration to recite just one cycle of Om, and that this pitch and rhythm ties them naturally into the Universe around them. Other spiritual practitioners believe that we all have a natural sound and pitch intrinsic to us that can be found by listening deep within ourselves and that this relates to all of wider existence, making our oneness with all things directly experiential.As sound is so prevalent in Western society, and as so much of it undesirable from the point of someone who is meditating, forms of meditating with sound can be very useful in turning what could be a disturbance and annoyance to our advantage. Such an exercise has wider implication for our wider sensual experience, allowing us to take a more relaxed attitude to stresses and to look far beyond mere sensual impressions in order to reach an understanding of our core selves in their connection with everything outside us. (See also ‘Meditation and the Five Senses’).