Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

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Laurens
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Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by Laurens » Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:07 am

I understand that this method was not taught by the Buddha, and it's also the case that Ajahn Sumedho himself states that it's not found anywhere in the canon. So I would respectfully ask that this topic isn't used to point that out, rather for those who practise it or have practiced it to discuss it.

I find Ajahn Sumedho an exemplary teacher who seems to have a deep experiential understanding of the Dhamma. Whilst some might take issue with him teaching a method that the Buddha never taught, in my view it's clear that he teaches it from that deep, experiential standpoint rather than as a means to assert himself as somehow improving the Buddha's teachings or something.

Because I find I get more practical understanding of the Dhamma from his teachings than any other teacher (of course your results may vary) I have decided to commit myself to practicing his sound of silence meditation.

For those who are unaware this practice involves paying attention to our sense of hearing. If your in quiet surroundings and your mind is calm you may hear a high pitched white noise hissing type of sound. This sound is not external. You can hear it with ear plugs in. It is also constant, and you can train yourself to hear it even when it's noisy. Some people don't like hearing it, in which case perhaps the method won't work, but for those who aren't averse to it, you can pay attention to it as a means of meditation.

I'll expand upon my experiences so far in a reply shortly, as I have to go to work soon. But I'd like to start a topic for anyone how practises or has practised this technique.

Have a pleasant day

L
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Sam Vara
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:29 am

I'm looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on this, as well as from others. I've tried this technique and found it interesting.

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Alīno
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by Alīno » Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:48 pm

Hello :anjali:

I think this sound of silence is a Microwave Cosmic Background (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_mi ... background).
Also i think thas this MCB can be sensed as not only through ears, but also through skin, as such called "duck skin"/ "luminuous body" sensation while body is calm in meditation.
Perhaps there is some peoples who can see it also with eyes, while mind is calm enought and you watch on some mono-color surface (or while reading a book, or whiting on DW) you see this little variations, like vibrations of surface, while you close eyes you see it too (like on some old TV from video)

So this MCB can be a good object of concentration and be usefull for all types of peoples, for exemple musician can use sound of silence, dancer can use the tuch of silence, and painter can use the sight of silence... For exemple i use a lot a "sight of silence" and "tuch of silence" because the sound is more unpleasant for me, so even if i hear it all the time i dont pay attention to it.

IMHO of corse, just my understanding...
:anjali:

Upāsaka Alīno - free from attachement and desire, undettered, one who perseveres, one who never gives up..._/\_

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Volo
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by Volo » Wed Sep 18, 2019 1:15 pm

I doubt the sound of silence has anything to do with a Microwave Cosmic Background. It's probably a spontaneous otoacoustic emissions (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otoacoustic_emission). Somewhat similar visual experiences ("Entoptic phenomenon" of seeing all kinds of light "worms" or "light dust" are also known (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entoptic_phenomenon).

What concerns the practice itself, once I met a guy who practiced it, and I got caught up in his enthusiasm. I tried it for a while, but then dropped. I just realized that it would require a long period of development (preferably probably the whole life, as it is basically the case for any object), and thought that I don't have enough faith for carrying it on, since Ven Sumedho himself acknowledged that it hadn't been taught by the Buddha.

But I would like to hear if somebody had a good experience with it and how did it help in the further practice.

Laurens
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by Laurens » Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:07 am

So here's my thoughts so far:

Firstly like any other meditation technique it has times where it seems to work and times where it doesn't.

When it does work, it's difficult to describe the state that it seems to put me in. It probably doesn't make much sense to say that the sound becomes like a screen or somehow the space onto which consciousness is projected. That might sound bizarre but it's the best way I can describe it. If you focus on it in a relaxed manner as Ajahn Sumedho suggests it's always in your awareness, beneath everything else. This seems to make thoughts less of a distraction because when you are focused on the 'screen' they become another layer of noise rather than something to believe and identify with. Of course that is not always the case but it seems to be more effective for me at tuning out thoughts than the breath. I imagine it can quite easily work in conjunction with the breath although I have not tried that.

The analogy of the screen is useful because everything happens on top of that rather than being one of many things vying for attention it is inclusive of everything but also supercedes it somehow.

I find it effective during daily life also as it is always there. So it can be a means for connecting oneself to the present, and I find I can be aware of it at all times. For me the breath or a mantra or mindfulness of the posture etc can come or go depending on whether something else better at taking my attention is there in the moment. I find I can be aware of it right now as I write. And I've not been in a situation where I haven't been able to find it or focus on it. Even during noise or conversation.

As I said though it doesn't always work. If I try too hard to pin my attention on it rather than relax into it, it can be frustrating. It also doesn't block out thoughts, so it's not necessarily calming and if the thoughts are strong and persistent it can lead you to think it doesn't work as a meditation practice. It is very good however at tuning you in to the way it is right now.
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Laurens
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by Laurens » Wed Sep 25, 2019 7:18 pm

This article by Ajahn Amaro is worth a read for those interested in this topic
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Aloka
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by Aloka » Wed Sep 25, 2019 7:47 pm

.

This is a link to Ajahn Sumedho's book "The Sound of Silence"

https://cdn.amaravati.org/wp-content/up ... ilence.pdf



:anjali:

Laurens
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by Laurens » Wed Sep 25, 2019 7:58 pm

Aloka wrote:
Wed Sep 25, 2019 7:47 pm
.

This is a link to Ajahn Sumedho's book "The Sound of Silence"

https://cdn.amaravati.org/wp-content/up ... ilence.pdf



:anjali:
Great book even if you don't practice this technique!
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

JohnK
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by JohnK » Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:03 am

Also this by Amaro:
https://www.abhayagiri.org/books/559-inner-listening
My notes say "Great stuff even apart from nada sound, e.g., Atammayata, p. 25."
Those who grasp at perceptions & views wander the internet creating friction. [based on Sn4:9,v.847]

dharmacorps
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by dharmacorps » Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:24 am

There is a book on this, for which Ajahn Amaro wrote a introduction called the Law of Attention by Edward Salim Michael. Michael was more of a Hindu/Yoga practitioner, but the book is all about the sound of silence technique. Personally, I only found about 50 pages of the book to be helpful as far as the "sound" or "nada yoga" technique.

I find the "sound of silence" to be easiest to be aware of in daily life going about business. I wish there were more writings about how to use the technique, but it has tons of potential I think as a Buddhist technique. For me, sometimes the breath is hard to dial in, but that sound is always there. Odd to say, but my experience with the sound was sudden-- one day after a particularly pleasant meditation session I noticed it was there and it never went away since.

pegembara
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by pegembara » Thu Sep 26, 2019 3:53 am

Laurens wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:07 am
So here's my thoughts so far:

Firstly like any other meditation technique it has times where it seems to work and times where it doesn't.

When it does work, it's difficult to describe the state that it seems to put me in. It probably doesn't make much sense to say that the sound becomes like a screen or somehow the space onto which consciousness is projected. That might sound bizarre but it's the best way I can describe it. If you focus on it in a relaxed manner as Ajahn Sumedho suggests it's always in your awareness, beneath everything else. This seems to make thoughts less of a distraction because when you are focused on the 'screen' they become another layer of noise rather than something to believe and identify with. Of course that is not always the case but it seems to be more effective for me at tuning out thoughts than the breath. I imagine it can quite easily work in conjunction with the breath although I have not tried that.

The analogy of the screen is useful because everything happens on top of that rather than being one of many things vying for attention it is inclusive of everything but also supercedes it somehow.

I find it effective during daily life also as it is always there. So it can be a means for connecting oneself to the present, and I find I can be aware of it at all times. For me the breath or a mantra or mindfulness of the posture etc can come or go depending on whether something else better at taking my attention is there in the moment. I find I can be aware of it right now as I write. And I've not been in a situation where I haven't been able to find it or focus on it. Even during noise or conversation.

As I said though it doesn't always work. If I try too hard to pin my attention on it rather than relax into it, it can be frustrating. It also doesn't block out thoughts, so it's not necessarily calming and if the thoughts are strong and persistent it can lead you to think it doesn't work as a meditation practice. It is very good however at tuning you in to the way it is right now.
I agree with you. The background ringing is always present whenever I place my attention there. Helps pull me out of thinking. Doesn't work all the time but is one of the ways to achieve some stillness. I hardly ever use it though.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.

Laurens
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by Laurens » Thu Sep 26, 2019 7:33 am

dharmacorps wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:24 am
I find the "sound of silence" to be easiest to be aware of in daily life going about business. I wish there were more writings about how to use the technique, but it has tons of potential I think as a Buddhist technique. For me, sometimes the breath is hard to dial in, but that sound is always there. Odd to say, but my experience with the sound was sudden-- one day after a particularly pleasant meditation session I noticed it was there and it never went away since.
I discovered it purely after hearing Ajahn Sumedho discussing it, at which point I listened and realised it's presence. I also wish there was more material on the subject. It's main downfall I find is that it can be easy to doubt something that is not widely discussed.

I think despite it not being explicitly taught in the suttas, it's not exactly antithetical to them. Paying attention to what arises in the senses is part of being mindful. Thus paying attention to a continuous sound wouldn't go against any teaching.
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

dharmacorps
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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by dharmacorps » Thu Sep 26, 2019 6:10 pm

Indeed-- like the breath, it is always there. Ajahn Sumedho wrote somewhere-- and this surprised me at the time-- something along the lines of that you can "ride the sound of silence to enlightenment". It occurs to me that the breath is talked about in the same way, so essentially it is still just mindfulness. It is interesting that your hearing Ajahn Sumedho point out its presence was all you needed! wonderful.

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Re: Ajahn Sumedho's Sound of Silence practice

Post by JohnK » Thu Sep 26, 2019 6:55 pm

I "discovered" it first as an affliction -- during a meditation retreat, it was sensed as extremely loud, dominating my awareness. I thought I had unleashed something that would plague me for the rest of my life, distracting me from awareness of anything else. The teacher explained that Ajahn Sumedho actually used and taught this as a meditation object. I was relieved. It has not replaced the breath as my main object (though sometimes I think I should try a whole retreat with it -- as it presented itself to me so strongly).
I have used it for entire meditation sessions and, on the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I just notice it in daily activities -- brings me back to present moment awareness. I recall one sitting where the constancy of the hiss/ring was interrupted rhythmically by the sound of my pulse -- which reminds me that the usual relative constancy of the sound can be less than engaging when the mental energy is not very settled. The movements/energy associated with the breath gives the mind a bit more to know, more to engage with when it needs that.
I hope someone here who has used this practice in a more disciplined way will chime in -- of course, the linked writings cover it pretty well.
Those who grasp at perceptions & views wander the internet creating friction. [based on Sn4:9,v.847]

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