General Question

Kraken's avatar

What is the easiest way for an urbanite to meditate who lives in noisy cramped quarters?

Asked by Kraken (1177points) April 5th, 2009

Ambulances, babies, kids, you name it. They are all actors in the noise game. How can an adult within their own small home find a way to successfully meditate?

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30 Answers

seekingwolf's avatar

Meditation is a state of mind, not where you are, what you are doing, or what you hear.

You need find a state of inner peace where you essentially can block out all the distractions and things that don’t matter. Such is an important objective to meditation.

To start, try some low soft music, but really try to just move past the noises and block them off. Once you reach that desired state of mind, everything around you just fades away. Think of the noise not as a barrier, but as a challenge to become someone who can meditate through ANYTHING. It’s possible and beneficial in so many ways.

Jeruba's avatar

You listen to the sounds they make. You take them all in. That’s what you do. And you keep your place in the midst of them.

Meditation is not about finding the easiest way. Meditation is about being in the place you are in,.

augustlan's avatar

White noise might be helpful.

seekingwolf's avatar


hehe I found it interesting that you said to “take in all the noises”. I just had a discussion about this with a fellow meditator. He takes in all of the noises when he meditates and comes at peace with them while I retreat to my inner self and am at such peace that I don’t even hear such noises.

Which is better? I don’t really know…guess it depends on the person.

3or4monsters's avatar

Shrill noises and loud, intrusive sounds are a part of the universal orchestra.

Zen's avatar

@3or4monsters I have never meditated, ironically enough. I have lived in downtown NYC, and eventually the cacophony of noise, with the ambulance sirens, shouts and police car wails became my lullaby.

I would have no idea where to begin meditating.

Just wanted to say hi buddy. Miss the interaction we used to have on wis. It seems if you don’t have something specific to contribute to a thread, you almost never interact with your friends here. sigh Such is life.

3or4monsters's avatar

@zen It is what it is. There is a chatroom for getting caught up and chatting, but things do appear to be pretty “on task” on the main website.

mattbrowne's avatar

Listening to a CD of nature sounds, like oceans, wind in a forest, song birds in the tropics and lighting a candle and looking at it.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Move to the country.. go on vacation.. get some earplugs….... or… sit in the lotus position and try to ignore reality.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@Zen, when I took my daughter to NYC to settle her in for school, the wall of sound was amazing, and quite unsettling. She didn’t even notice it at first, but by the end of the semester, said it made her edgy when her awareness of it switched on.

I live in an urban midwestern area, and always have some sound going on—traffic from the expressway nearby, planes overhead, sirens as they head towards nearby hospitals, people getting in and out of cars, people walking and talking, lots and lots of birds. I wonder if total silence would freak me out at first.

sdeutsch's avatar

I’d agree with @mattbrowne – if you’re having trouble taking in (or tuning out) the city sounds around you, playing a CD of some kind could give you something more immediate to focus on. It could be nature sounds, or white noise, or even just some kind of quiet music that you enjoy.

I’m personally a huge fan of this CD of the Gayatri Mantra – it’s a great basic chant to focus on while you meditate, and it’s recorded beautifully, with a few good instrumental tracks too (plus, I know the guys who arranged and performed it!)

@AlfredaPrufrock I’ve always lived in a city, and when I visit my grandma in Middle-of-Nowhere, NJ, the silence always freaks me out for the first few days. I get used to it after a while, but I still can’t shake the feeling that there’s something missing – it’s nice to get back to the noises of the traffic and the neighbors…

Zen's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock I now live in a total silence area from sundown to sunup. Only the occasional helicopter at night, or owl or jackal make any sounds – and the birds’ chirping is the first sound I hear the next morning. Quite a difference.

Mr_M's avatar

They sell VERY effective ear plugs and head sets ranging in price from inexpensive to expensive. Go to your local drug store and get ear plugs for sleeping. They’ll block out enough.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Public library is a good place.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock, My Mother in Law had foster kids that had never been out of the city. She used to take them for car rides out into the country around dusk, and then when it was dark, she would pull over to the side of a side road, turn off the lights, turn off the radio, shut off the engine and power down the windows so they could see what REAL silence was like. She said it always freaked em out.

Harp's avatar

You don’t specify what kind of meditation you’re doing, but certainly in Zen meditation there’s no point in trying to screen out sounds. If you’re only able to maintain focus under ideal circumstances, then what good will that do you in the other 99% of your life when a million things are going on around you? The lesson of meditation is that it that we don’t have to go mentally chasing after every stimulus that flies across our awareness. There’s always the option of just letting it fly on by.

I keep hearing from my Zen acquaintances about a particular 7-day meditation retreat that happened over a decade ago (I wasn’t at this one). This was at an urban temple in a residential neighborhood. Toward the beginning of the retreat, a cat got stuck in a nearby tall tree and began to yowl every couple of minutes day and night for 3 days (and no, firemen no longer rescue treed cats). The people in the retreat had the choice of either letting this ruin the retreat for them, or just letting it be. Not a bad lesson.

laureth's avatar

The third choice (helping the cat get out of the tree) comes to mind. It’s hard to believe that a group of compassionate people wouldn’t have helped the poor thing.

Zen's avatar

If a cat is in a tree in a forest, but you’ve blocked out its howls, does it still exist?

Jeruba's avatar

Thanks, @Harp, for specifying Zen. I oght to have mentioned in my response that I was answering in terms of Zen practice. To me there is no point in following a meditation practice with the thought that you can improvise on it and disregard the discipline. Individuality is not what it’s about. So, @seekingwolf, I would say it doesn’t depend on the person. It depends on the practice you are following.

@Harp, like Laureth I am wondering why there wasn’t a third choice. During a work period or after a meal, why wouldn’t it have been appropriate for a small crew to attempt to rescue the suffering cat? or offered to help the homeowner if it was in someone’s yard? Wouldn’t Avalokiteshvara, who hears the yowls of the world, have condoned saving this sentient being? Was this in Mountain View?

hearkat's avatar

@Mr_M: I will add the option of custom molded earplugs or tips for earphones are also excellent for blocking ambient noise. Depending on the purpose and materials, they cost around $75–200 and last for years. Consult your friendly neighborhood Audiologist :-D

@laureth and @jeruba: I have had my own cats get stuck in trees, and there is no way to help them out. If you try to go up after them, they climb higher; and if you do catch a hold of them, they scratch you. They all come down on their own when they get hungry enough… 3 days seems to be the maximum.

Jeruba's avatar

@hearkat, we actually watched one of our cats rescue another who got stuck in the neighbor’s tree. It was amazing.

fireside's avatar

A good way to get into a meditative mindset is to focus on the relative distance of the sounds. Start by focusing on those sounds closet to you and then gradually expand outwards taking in all of the sounds sequentially. Then return back from the distance to the nearness.

One of my favorite things to listen to while meditating is the crickets. Don’t try to block them out, just allow them to be.

hearkat's avatar

@Jeruba: that must have been incredible! None of our other cats paid any attention to the one who was yowling… including her own littermate!

Jeruba's avatar

That was a very special cat. In this case the junior cat had gone over the main fork in the trunk and onto a branch below it. There was nothing underneath, and it was quite a long way down. She must have forgotten how she got there, so she was stranded. The older cat took in the situation, went up the trunk to the fork, and hollered and coached the junior to follow her, showing her how she had to go up to get down.

The same cat also stopped my toddler from running down the driveway into the street when I could not move fast enough.

hearkat's avatar

@Jeruba: that was some cat! Was it just a domestic shorthair, or a particular breed?

Jeruba's avatar

Half Siamese but all black. One of a matched pair, but her littermate was nothing like that.

Harp's avatar

@Jeruba and @laureth Oh, believe me, they tried to get the cat out of the tree. It was impossible to climb apparently, and she was very high. I wish I could remember how the story ended. It was in Rochester

NaturallyMe's avatar

Put on some meditative music to cover up the background noise? Turn off the lights so that you’re not aware of your “cramped” surroundings, and light a candle to focus on your meditation on. Oh, and light some incense.

laureth's avatar

Lordy, I hope that cat isn’t still yowling away up there! :D Poor thing. Probably starved.

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