Of Noise, Ear Plugs and Sensory Deprivation Tanks

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  • Ryumon
    Member
    • Apr 2007
    • 1693

    #16
    I used earplugs back in the early days of meditation, about thirty years ago, for a while. I lived in a building where there was a lot of noise. I think it was a good idea, because this was as I was learning to meditate; it allowed me to focus on my breath - which was what I was doing pre-shikantaza - without getting frustrated by too much aural distraction. I stopped using them when I moved to a quieter place, and now, only the most annoying noise would prevent me from sitting. So if one is a beginner, it might not be such a bad thing; it's not like there aren't enough distractions (aside from thoughts, I have tinnitus, and earplugs don't do anything about that).

    I also have experience in an isolation tank; I did that fairly frequently back in the early 80s when I lived in New York. I used earplugs to keep the water out of my ears.
    ---
    Ryūmon (Kirk)
    流文

    SAT/LAH

    I know nothing.

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    • Myoku
      Member
      • Jul 2010
      • 1487

      #17
      What Kirk said, when you get into it, a less distracting environment is of great help. As it is important to allow all that noise and understand its not the noise that disturbs you later on. Gassho Myoku

      sat today

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      • Sekiyuu
        Member
        • Apr 2018
        • 201

        #18
        During the week I find it most comfortable to sit in the afternoon in a specially designated "quiet room" at work (I'm a pampered tech worker). Normally there's not much sound at all, it's about as quiet as an office could get... the HVAC is running, people are typing on keyboards, there's a few unintelligible words said, there's a streetcar passing by outside.

        It was not so when I sat today. Someone was repeatedly tearing some paper right outside the quiet room. It might sound kind of silly but it was loud and unexpected, and bothering me a lot. "This is ruining my zazen" I thought. Then I thought not only "there's no such thing as bad zazen" but I also imagined how ridiculous it would be if I got up and angrily hunted down whoever was doing something so harmless and mundane. After while I just sat with the tearing noise, and then, eventually, I felt like the paper being torn and me sitting there were the same action, the same event, and by extension everything else was the same event; the HVAC, the typing, the streetcar, and so on, just a big jumble of "happening". The idea of being bothered by the noise seemed ridiculous, because it would be like being bothered by sitting.

        I'm still very early in my regular sitting practice but I couldn't help but feel a sense of progress. I know I should probably not put any worth in that feeling, but I felt like I had to share to get another opinion. Maybe I'm putting way too much weight on me simply getting used to a sound nearby and not letting it bother me, simply because it all happened while I was sitting.

        Sometime I should find a deadly quiet place, it might actually end up being harder to sit there!

        Gassho, Kenny
        Sat Today

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        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39270

          #19
          Originally posted by Kenny
          ...

          It was not so when I sat today. Someone was repeatedly tearing some paper right outside the quiet room. It might sound kind of silly but it was loud and unexpected, and bothering me a lot. "This is ruining my zazen" I thought. Then I thought not only "there's no such thing as bad zazen" but I also imagined how ridiculous it would be if I got up and angrily hunted down whoever was doing something so harmless and mundane. After while I just sat with the tearing noise, and then, eventually, I felt like the paper being torn and me sitting there were the same action, the same event, and by extension everything else was the same event; the HVAC, the typing, the streetcar, and so on, just a big jumble of "happening". The idea of being bothered by the noise seemed ridiculous, because it would be like being bothered by sitting.

          I'm still very early in my regular sitting practice but I couldn't help but feel a sense of progress. I know I should probably not put any worth in that feeling, but I felt like I had to share to get another opinion. Maybe I'm putting way too much weight on me simply getting used to a sound nearby and not letting it bother me, simply because it all happened while I was sitting.

          ...
          That sounds like a very good insight. Lovely.

          Now, next, realize the unusual idea that a key aspect of making "progress" is totally abandoning the need of "some place to get" and just being totally at home here, tearing papers and all. That is really "good progress" to realize so, and truly "getting somewhere!"

          And it is even "good Zazen" when the skies are cloudy some days, and one does not have such wondrous insights, as well as when the skies clear and we do!

          Yes, we are weird that way.

          Gassho, Jundo

          SatTodayLAH
          Last edited by Jundo; 05-03-2018, 12:52 AM.
          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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          • SNPII
            Member
            • May 2018
            • 50

            #20
            Gassho for this! This is sometimes a challenge for myself as im sure many others!

            I love the inner self depravation tank comparison.

            Sat2day

            In Sincerity
            Shane
            In Sincerity
            Shane

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            • Jacob Janicek
              Member
              • Jun 2020
              • 38

              #21
              I know this is an older thread, but is it ever OK to occasionally use wireless earphones with ambient noise like a river stream or rain or some such? I was thinking about doing this just for the weekly zazenkai so as to have a different sort of noise than TV and Ipads that my wife and child use during that time of the day, but I'm not sure if it would be acceptable.
              I've been browsing a lot of these beginner threads lately and wasn't sure whether to ask this here or in a new thread.

              Gassho,
              Jacob Jay
              Sat today
              I'm not qualified to sign this post

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              • Nengei
                Member
                • Dec 2016
                • 1697

                #22
                Originally posted by Jacob Janicek
                I know this is an older thread, but is it ever OK to occasionally use wireless earphones with ambient noise like a river stream or rain or some such?
                Hello Jacob,

                Good question. There is so much excellent software out there now for guided meditation, or musical meditation, or relaxation, and other things. They may be helpful for you. In fact, I use them sometimes when I am going to bed, to help me fall asleep.

                However, listening to anything like that would mean what you are doing is not shikantaza, or zazen at all, but a sort of meditation, which is not what zazen is. Something you are listening to while trying to do shikantaza would mean introducing thinking, when what we want is to let thinking fall away. Even using headphones to listen only to the Zoom zazenkai is probably not the best. I ask my family to just keep it down a little for this period of time. If your quarters are tighter, I understand how it can be a challenge. Maybe sometimes your zazenkai time can be their mother-child date night.

                When I was first learning zazen, I sometimes visited a monastery where the baseboard heaters would tick and pop in the winter, and in the summer the windows were open and you could hear insects, animals, and the occasional car, or a person walking by on gravel. I wondered at the time about whether it would be better to block those sounds out, maybe turn on the air conditioner and close the windows. But I learned over time, with continued practice, that sitting with what is, and letting those thoughts fall away, is really the best practice.

                Gassho,
                Nengei
                Sat today. LAH.

                Please forgive any appearance that I am trying to teach anything. I am a priest in training without any depth of knowledge or qualifications for teaching Zen or the Dharma.
                遜道念芸 Sondō Nengei (he/him)

                Please excuse any indication that I am trying to teach anything. I am a priest in training and have no qualifications or credentials to teach Zen practice or the Dharma.

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                • Jacob Janicek
                  Member
                  • Jun 2020
                  • 38

                  #23
                  Originally posted by Nengei
                  Hello Jacob,

                  Good question. There is so much excellent software out there now for guided meditation, or musical meditation, or relaxation, and other things. They may be helpful for you. In fact, I use them sometimes when I am going to bed, to help me fall asleep.

                  However, listening to anything like that would mean what you are doing is not shikantaza, or zazen at all, but a sort of meditation, which is not what zazen is. Something you are listening to while trying to do shikantaza would mean introducing thinking, when what we want is to let thinking fall away. Even using headphones to listen only to the Zoom zazenkai is probably not the best. I ask my family to just keep it down a little for this period of time. If your quarters are tighter, I understand how it can be a challenge. Maybe sometimes your zazenkai time can be their mother-child date night.
                  I suspected as much but thought I'd ask just to make sure. Thank you for clarifying.

                  Gassho
                  Jacob Jay
                  Sat today
                  I'm not qualified to sign this post

                  Comment

                  • Veronica
                    Member
                    • Nov 2022
                    • 124

                    #24
                    Thanks for this. I struggle with thinking of certain sounds as unpleasant (not sure why), and will keep trying to be accepting of them. For me it's more chewing, yawning, knuckle cracking... But those never seem to be happening during zazen. I guess I need insta-zazen when I notice them.
                    Veronica
                    Stlah

                    Comment

                    • Geika
                      Treeleaf Unsui
                      • Jan 2010
                      • 4978

                      #25
                      I have found that I am able to sit zazen while listening to white noise. Because it is white noise, there is not really "listening" or focusing on the noise going on-- just as ambient as sitting zazen while a fan is on. (so I don't mean like river sounds or ocean waves, but that can help too if one wants it) It can be really helpful for high-stress environments as it kind of naturally calms me. This is for situations where I need it for high anxiety or noise-triggered stress which can make it impossible for me to sit. I also have a pair of ear plugs that are designed to soften sharp sounds for similar reasons.

                      Gassho
                      Sat, lah
                      求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
                      I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

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                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39270

                        #26
                        Dogen said that we should live and sit Zazen in (relatively, because no perfect silence) quiet places, because quiet helps the heart and mind quiet.

                        However, ultimately, the true "quiet" is in the heart and mind, not outside. Really, it is neither inside nor outside. So, one should best find the true silence within, not dependent on what is happening around one ... even a battle field. Headphones and white noise may help for awhile, as will sitting in a quiet hut in the forest ...

                        ... but please find the "silence" in Times Square!

                        — A Quiet Room. Most days, we’d best sit Zazen in a quiet room, with little noise and few distractions. The reason is simply that a peaceful, still, quiet environment helps us allow the mind to become peaceful, still and quiet, with thoughts and emotions drifting away as the mind settles down. But once in awhile, maybe every


                        Gassho, J

                        stlah
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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                        • Tokan
                          Treeleaf Unsui
                          • Oct 2016
                          • 1230

                          #27
                          Hey all

                          It's all been said already, so I'll just share my experience today. I managed to create a spot in the day where I thought things would be 'normally' quiet, just the typical background noise of the kids outside, traffic and so on. One minute into sitting and my neighbour comes home playing loud music in his car. Well, it was a nice sunny day, he has a convertible, so why not? For me though, death metal seemed like the last thing I wanted to hear. Due to the fact that I had managed my day to have a nice reasonably quiet 30 minute slot before work, I had to laugh that my unknowing neighbour was doing precisely what I wouldn't want him to do at precisely the moment I wouldn't have wanted him to do it. I noticed that death metal only became death metal in my consciousness when I labelled it as such and so I dropped the label. Death metal can only exist if we hold onto time, it seemed to me, so only the sound was present in each moment, and it also seemed that no one sound could therefore be identified as death metal - or any other genre. He went away after 10-15 minutes and I was not disturbed and reached the end of the zazen. When I bowed at the end I also bowed to my neighbour for his teaching.

                          Gassho, Tokan

                          satlah
                          平道 島看 Heidou Tokan (Balanced Way Island Nurse)
                          I enjoy learning from everyone, I simply hope to be a friend along the way

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