Noise and Distracting Sounds


I am a student preparing for exams where I should be reading 15-16 hours day minimum. But I am in such situation that I can not escape noise. How to focus on studies in this situation? PS I do practice kriya yoga although I’m not perfect.

—V, India


Dear Friend,

Noise is indeed a distraction — in cities throughout the world. Have you tried ear plugs or headphones? If you can afford the expensive Bose noise-cancelling headphones, you might consider these. If you have a smart phone, is there a noise cancellation app? Or even some soothing sounds or music app that you could listen (using ear-buds) while reading?

My teacher, Swami Kriyananda, would tell the story of a person who, living near a factory, was disturbed during meditation by the factory whistle. He asked his teacher, “What can I do?”

The teacher recommended he meditate on the sound of the whistle. After a time, he no longer “heard” the whistle.

The five senses require constant refreshing: the eyes blink; the nose sniffs; the touch continues to move; the mouth chews, and the ears must constantly refresh their attention. But introduce stillness to any sense and the sense-impressions begin to fatigue and the objects of the senses disappear. Stare at a candle flame long enough and you will no longer see it. Touch an object and hold your hand still and soon you can no longer feel its specific qualities. Sniff at incense and then cease sniffing and after a time you can no longer smell it. Put food in your mouth, stop chewing, and soon there is no taste remaining. Hearing, admittedly, has its own attributes. (For a dying person, it is the last sense to go away.) Nonetheless, if you focus calmly on a sound without judgment or reaction, you will very soon tire of it and redirect your attention elsewhere.

So: before beginning your study (or even your meditation), sit upright, be very still and listen calmly and intently to all the noise around you. Make it a kind of meditation. Do not react, analyze, judge, or mentally comment upon the sounds. Let them enter and pass through you. You’ll have to practise this each day and perhaps for a few days or even weeks but in time, these sounds (of the city around you) will fade from your interest. In any case, practise for a few minutes at very least before commencing your reading or your meditation.

As the sounds begin to merge or fade, imagine them to be variations on the primordial sound of AUM! Listen and view all sounds as emanations from the consciousness of Divine Mother’s silent voice of AUM. The outwardly heard sound calls us out into the world. But behind the outer sound is an inner sound. It is a vibration; a feeling; it is space. It calls us to come home, to go within and merge with Holy Spirit, the Divine Mother!

Try some of these suggestions and see if these won’t help you, ok?

Hriman (Terry) McGilloway — blog