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Thread: Sitting with white noise

  1. #1

    Sitting with white noise

    It is very important to be able to sit with all the world, as it is, BUT...

    Is it not skillful to sit with a recording of white noise sometimes?

    There is nowhere I can sit in the house at any time of day that does not have a clearly audible television (usually news), even with a closed door, because my grandmother is hard of hearing. So it is LOUD. I have been dealing with it for so long and I am more than realizing a largely negative effect on sitting practice-- and daily life in general. I believe in my samu video from Rohatsu it is apparent.

    It is often described when this comes up as a good practice to get away from our quiet at-home practice spaces and out into a public space and sit... but what if our homes are literally never a even a RELATIVELY quiet space and there is nowhere to go? I can't even wait until nighttime because my grandmother stays up later than me... and is up earlier.

    There are so many stories of people on retreat in meditations halls, and suddenly there is construction or gardening noise, and the lesson in these stories is to sit with what is, and what IS noise, etc... but for the most part, those practice places are kept relatively quiet from, for example, a constant stream of loud, bad news, politics, and cooking shows right in your ear all day.

    So I have been sitting with some white noise lately and it has really helped. I avoid complete silence, like ear plugs, because it feels unnatural in a regular sitting environment. White noise, instead, does not really feel like anything added or taken.

    Jundo, when you read this, what would you recommend in my particular situation? Maybe others with similar home situations or children can benefit.

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

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    It is very important to be able to sit with all the world, as it is, BUT...

    Is it not skillful to sit with a recording of white noise sometimes?

    There is nowhere I can sit in the house at any time of day that does not have a clearly audible television (usually news), even with a closed door, because my grandmother is hard of hearing. So it is LOUD. I have been dealing with it for so long and I am more than realizing a largely negative effect on sitting practice-- and daily life in general. I believe in my samu video from Rohatsu it is apparent.

    It is often described when this comes up as a good practice to get away from our quiet at-home practice spaces and out into a public space and sit... but what if our homes are literally never a even a RELATIVELY quiet space and there is nowhere to go? I can't even wait until nighttime because my grandmother stays up later than me... and is up earlier.

    There are so many stories of people on retreat in meditations halls, and suddenly there is construction or gardening noise, and the lesson in these stories is to sit with what is, and what IS noise, etc... but for the most part, those practice places are kept relatively quiet from, for example, a constant stream of loud, bad news, politics, and cooking shows right in your ear all day.

    So I have been sitting with some white noise lately and it has really helped. I avoid complete silence, like ear plugs, because it feels unnatural in a regular sitting environment. White noise, instead, does not really feel like anything added or taken.

    Jundo, when you read this, what would you recommend in my particular situation? Maybe others with similar home situations or children can benefit.

    Gassho
    Sat today, lah
    It's funny to me that meditation practices that say they are about facing all that IS have a tendency to require insular and fairly hermetically sealed situations as ideal practice situations, like monasteries. I understand how quiet is helpful for concentration but I feel like things that disturb us are exactly where there is work to do and though we don't necessarily need to seek what is disturbing, if we find it to be an inevitable part of our environment then that is relevant to the present moment.

    Gassho,

    -Andrew-
    Satlah.

  3. #3
    I'm glad you've found a way to sit that works for you Geika.
    My most recent hospital stay was quite intense at times. I would sit a LOT and sit in some pretty intense situations. Something happened while sitting one time when there was a lot going on and now I seem to be able to sit anywhere at any time.
    I'd be interested too in what Jundo and others have to say about using white noise as an aid to sitting in noisy environments too.
    Gassho
    Onka
    ST
    Life's too serious to be taken seriously.

  4. #4
    I used to rely on white noise machines both for my job, and to sleep at night in my apartment on one of the busiest streets in Seattle, so I have very strong opinions opinions about them. I LOVE them with all my heart and soul, and I heartily endorse their use. I used to practice community acupuncture, where people were receiving treatment, talking about sensitive health issues, etc. all in the same room, and the machine made a private acoustic "rooms" for each person. It was great. In your situation, I'd go nuts without one, so I see no reason not to use it for time to time. I don't see how it's fundamentally any different from getting away from the noise by going to a separate, quiet room (which you don't have). But it's also probably good practice to sit while hearing the news, but it doesn't seem necessary every time.

    Advice: invest in a quality machine. The cheap ones have repeating patterns of sounds that you'll pick up on, which are super annoying and distracting. The good ones don't do that.

    Gassho
    Kyōshin
    Satlah

    Sent from my moto g(7) power using Tapatalk

  5. #5
    Hello,
    Would it be possible for your grandmother to wear headphones?

    ST

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by A.J. View Post
    It's funny to me that meditation practices that say they are about facing all that IS have a tendency to require insular and fairly hermetically sealed situations as ideal practice situations, like monasteries. I understand how quiet is helpful for concentration but I feel like things that disturb us are exactly where there is work to do and though we don't necessarily need to seek what is disturbing, if we find it to be an inevitable part of our environment then that is relevant to the present moment.

    Gassho,

    -Andrew-
    Satlah.
    The Buddha sat under a tree in the woods. Dogen sat in a Chinese monastery on a mountain top. In Fukanzazengi (a part of Shobogenzo), Dogen wrote that "for the practice of Zen, a quiet room is suitable." (Translation by Norman Waddell and Masao Abe). And while in that quiet room, it is one thing for a noisy distraction to arise in the form of, say, an ambulance going by so that we are distracted and start creating a story about the ambulance (maybe there was a bad accident; I hope nobody is hurt too bad). Those kind of distractions are inevitable and something we all need to learn to deal with. It's qualitatively different, however, when you cannot have a quiet space at all. In zazen, we are working on distractions -- but the internal distractions that make us think we are are separate. It's hard to work on those kind of issues, internal distractions, when they can't even arise because of external distractions. Just my perspective, though.

    Geika, I feel for you. 20 years ago I lived with a friend who liked to smoke a lot of dope and play music loud at night, which was my zazen time. I knew a woman who taught Pilates, and she gave me a key to her studio so that
    I could sit there at night. It had its own drawbacks because it was next door to a Japanese steak house and I could always smell delicious food being cooked. I called it Red Meat Zendo. Probably not an option for you. I hope you find a solution.

    Gassho,
    Juki

    Sat today and lah
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-06-2020 at 12:20 AM.
    "First you have to give up." Tyler Durden

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by A.J. View Post
    It's funny to me that meditation practices that say they are about facing all that IS have a tendency to require insular and fairly hermetically sealed situations as ideal practice situations, like monasteries. I understand how quiet is helpful for concentration but I feel like things that disturb us are exactly where there is work to do and though we don't necessarily need to seek what is disturbing, if we find it to be an inevitable part of our environment then that is relevant to the present moment.
    Quote Originally Posted by Juki View Post
    The Buddha sat under a tree in the woods. Dogen sat in a Chinese monastery on a mountain top. In Fukanzazengi (a part of Shobogenzo), Dogen wrote that "for the practice of Zen, a quiet room is suitable." (Translation by Norman Waddell and Masao Abe). And while in that quiet room, it is one thing for a noisy distraction to arise in the form of, say, an ambulance going by so that we are distracted and start creating a story about the ambulance (maybe there was a bad accident; I hope nobody is hurt too bad). Those kind of distractions are inevitable and something we all need to learn to deal with. It's qualitatively different, however, when you cannot have a quiet space at all. In zazen, we are working on distractions -- but the internal distractions that make us think we are are separate. It's hard to work on those kind of issues, internal distractions, when they can't even arise because of external distractions. Just my perspective, though.

    Geika, I feel for you. 20 years ago I lived with a friend who liked to smoke a lot of dope and play music loud at night, which was my zazen time. I knew a woman who taught Pilates, and she gave me a key to her studio so that
    I could sit there at night. It had its own drawbacks because it was next door to a Japanese steak house and I could always smell delicious food being cooked. I called it Red Meat Zendo. Probably not an option for you. I hope you find a solution.
    Thanks, Juki. Your response to AJ made clear what I wanted to say. As I stated above, I have had years of steady practice with this noise. I can sit through pretty much anything at this point. However, when I realized it was really affecting my mental health, and that I no longer wished to sit at all because of it, I needed an alternative option, like your steak house zendo!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyoshin View Post
    Advice: invest in a quality machine. The cheap ones have repeating patterns of sounds that you'll pick up on, which are super annoying and distracting. The good ones don't do that.
    No need to buy a machine for me. There are some YouTube videos that are helpful. I only need it for some of the times I am sitting-- not sleeping or anything, so I'm not worried about having a machine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Margherita View Post
    Would it be possible for your grandmother to wear headphones?
    Well, it's her house, so I don't feel comfortable telling her how she should watch her TV, and I don't think that she would put up with headphones for one minute because it will flatten her perm, which is about the second most important thing to her.

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

  8. #8
    Hmmm. Yes, sometimes sit with a white noise machine, ear plugs or headphones if you find the noise so distracting. If the sound of the TV, the commercials and news are so distracting, then do what one can to avoid that noise. No problem.

    Next, find the "white noise machine" within you. Then you will be sitting in a quite room even if there are drum rehearsals next door. This is the Quiet Room which leaps beyond and ignores, without reacting to, the field of sense impressions vibrating on the ear.

    Maybe sometimes switch between one and the other, sometimes turning the outside machine on and sometimes not even bothering. Maybe some days, ask your grandmother to turn the sound UP! and for the drummers to play louder.

    Sometimes people forget how noisy can be a monastery in the mountains: Feet running down the wooden floorboards, Heart Sutra chanting, drums and bells down the hall, lighting and rain pounding on the roof, the insects and cicadas (our Zendo will be visited by their noisy chorus this month), the asthmatic breathing or farting of the monk next to you, dogs barking, childrens' voices in the distance, Kyosaku stick pounding someone's shoulder, the ear sense becoming so sensitive in the stillness and quite that the sound of incense falling is as loud as that drum. Very noisy place.

    Perhaps you can come to a place in which the news and "reality shows" on your grandmother's TV sounds in your heart just like the Heart Sutra chanting, Empty and Silent in all the noise. In fact, then maybe one can taste the Empty and Silent that is this whole chaotic, messy, disturbing world!

    In the meantime, yes, ear plugs, sound cancelling headphones (or getting Grandma some headphones or plugs that don't mess her hair!) and such are fine.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-06-2020 at 01:06 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Juki View Post
    The Buddha sat under a tree in the woods. Dogen sat in a Chinese monastery on a mountain top. In Fukanzazengi (a part of Shobogenzo), Dogen wrote that "for the practice of Zen, a quiet room is suitable." (Translation by Norman Waddell and Masao Abe). And while in that quiet room, it is one thing for a noisy distraction to arise in the form of, say, an ambulance going by so that we are distracted and start creating a story about the ambulance (maybe there was a bad accident; I hope nobody is hurt too bad). Those kind of distractions are inevitable and something we all need to learn to deal with. It's qualitatively different, however, when you cannot have a quiet space at all. In zazen, we are working on distractions -- but the internal distractions that make us think we are are separate. It's hard to work on those kind of issues, internal distractions, when they can't even arise because of external distractions. Just my perspective, though.

    Gassho,
    Juki

    Sat today and lah
    I understand there are these traditional stories and that generally speaking a quiet space is beneficial. However if ultimately meditation is to permeate all of life rather than just be an insular activity you engage in it seems to me that a dissolution of these mental boundaries between us and all the distractions could also be beneficial. I can't actually speak to the details of anyone else's case because I don't intimately understand it, so these are my own reflective thoughts.

    Gassho,

    -Andrew-

    Satlah

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by A.J. View Post
    I understand there are these traditional stories and that generally speaking a quiet space is beneficial. However if ultimately meditation is to permeate all of life rather than just be an insular activity you engage in it seems to me that a dissolution of these mental boundaries between us and all the distractions could also be beneficial. I can't actually speak to the details of anyone else's case because I don't intimately understand it, so these are my own reflective thoughts.

    Gassho,

    -Andrew-

    Satlah
    Of course, but there are physical limits and people have different sensibilities. I have witnessed Japanese experienced sitters keep sitting through big earthquakes (in a 150 year old building with a teetering roof), car backfires and all kinds of things. Some tests on monks and experienced sitters show that many are less reactive to noises (in one interesting test which I cannot find right now, monks in Zazen hooked up to an EEG were bombarded with all kinds of noises and emotional words ... firecrackers, pots banging, their mother's voice, Hitler, "go to hell" ... go to hell, you pot banging mother Hitler! ... and seemingly their EEG held pretty steady in the reactive areas. (Actually, here is a whole group of such studies: https://www.researchgate.net/publica...e_A_Case_Study ))

    But anyone has limits. I would certainly react to a gun shot or 747 jet engine nearby ... sometimes I even leap up from Zazen when my daughter runs in the Zendo or the postman knocks with a delivery. If I heard gun shots next door, or there was a fire or major earthquake (I still sit through the small earthquakes here in Japan, and I sat with wasps buzzing around my head just last week), I would briefly break off Zazen, take cover or investigate ... then, when things were settled ... return to sitting.

    So, we learn to sit in equanimity ... but we still have human bodies and brains ... and there are some limits. When I had my big surgery, they put me under and cut me with a knife, and I did not feel a thing! However, I doubt that I can do that just with Zazen, although it does work surprisingly well at the dentist's poking around many times. Some people can be more sensitive than others. (I knew someone with a physical condition where even small sounds like a door closing could be startling to her).

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-06-2020 at 01:05 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hmmm. Yes, sometimes sit with a white noise machine, ear plugs or headphones if you find the noise so distracting. If the sound of the TV, the commercials and news are so distracting, then do what one can to avoid that noise. No problem.

    Next, find the "white noise machine" within you. Then you will be sitting in a quite room even if there are drum rehearsals next door. This is the Quiet Room which leaps beyond and ignores, without reacting to, the field of sense impressions vibrating on the ear.

    Maybe sometimes switch between one and the other, sometimes turning the outside machine on and sometimes not even bothering. Maybe some days, ask your grandmother to turn the sound UP! and for the drummers to play louder.

    Sometimes people forget how noisy can be a monastery in the mountains: Feet running down the wooden floorboards, Heart Sutra chanting, drums and bells down the hall, lighting and rain pounding on the roof, the insects and cicadas (our Zendo will be visited by their noisy chorus this month), the asthmatic breathing or farting of the monk next to you, dogs barking, childrens' voices in the distance, Kyosaku stick pounding someone's shoulder, the ear sense becoming so sensitive in the stillness and quite that the sound of incense falling is as loud as that drum. Very noisy place.

    Perhaps you can come to a place in which the news and "reality shows" on your grandmother's TV sounds in your heart just like the Heart Sutra chanting, Empty and Silent in all the noise. In fact, then maybe one can taste the Empty and Silent that is this whole chaotic, messy, disturbing world!

    In the meantime, yes, ear plugs, sound cancelling headphones (or getting Grandma some headphones or plugs that don't mess her hair!) and such are fine.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Thank you. I wasn't planning on always doing it this way, but sometimes, I just need a break. I was thinking of you Beginner's video with the blender, and I was thinking, "What if the blender is always on?"

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

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    It is very important to be able to sit with all the world, as it is, BUT...

    Is it not skillful to sit with a recording of white noise sometimes?

    There is nowhere I can sit in the house at any time of day that does not have a clearly audible television (usually news), even with a closed door, because my grandmother is hard of hearing. So it is LOUD. I have been dealing with it for so long and I am more than realizing a largely negative effect on sitting practice-- and daily life in general. I believe in my samu video from Rohatsu it is apparent.

    It is often described when this comes up as a good practice to get away from our quiet at-home practice spaces and out into a public space and sit... but what if our homes are literally never a even a RELATIVELY quiet space and there is nowhere to go? I can't even wait until nighttime because my grandmother stays up later than me... and is up earlier.

    There are so many stories of people on retreat in meditations halls, and suddenly there is construction or gardening noise, and the lesson in these stories is to sit with what is, and what IS noise, etc... but for the most part, those practice places are kept relatively quiet from, for example, a constant stream of loud, bad news, politics, and cooking shows right in your ear all day.

    So I have been sitting with some white noise lately and it has really helped. I avoid complete silence, like ear plugs, because it feels unnatural in a regular sitting environment. White noise, instead, does not really feel like anything added or taken.

    Jundo, when you read this, what would you recommend in my particular situation? Maybe others with similar home situations or children can benefit.

    Gassho
    Sat today, lah
    I often do because of circumstances in my family and home.

    I sometimes use Insight's background sounds, or even a fan, or calm music to sit with. Just to give my mind some quiet space, and ease the tension in my body. Just for a few minutes.

    Otherwise I'm doing my short bursts of shikantaza, which just uses myself wherever i happen to be.

    Gassho, meian, st lh

    Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
    迷安 - Mei An - Wandering At Rest

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    ... "What if the blender is always on?"
    Well, it is hard. But, you would be surprised what people can get used to.

    I have a relative who has a house right next to the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) elevated tracks. Every 10 minutes or so, a Bullet Train speeds by at full speed making a rumble and shaking the bookshelves. After all these years, they take no notice and don't even seem to hear it. This is actually quite common in Japan.

    Still, like for people living near airports, I am sure that there can be hidden physical effects over time.



    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-06-2020 at 11:29 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Thank you all for this helpful thread and Jundo for guidance

    Gassho, Chris sattodayLAH

  15. #15
    Many years ago, I lived in an apartment that had a fair amount of noise from outside. I used earplugs, and found it fine, but today you might want to use noise-cancelling headphones. I think either of those solutions is better than white noise, because the white noise won't fully block out the extraneous sounds, and you'll be on heightened alert listening for them.

    Gassho,

    Kirk

    sat
    -----
    I know nothing.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    Well, it's her house, so I don't feel comfortable telling her how she should watch her TV, and I don't think that she would put up with headphones for one minute because it will flatten her perm, which is about the second most important thing to her.
    Surely there must be a type of headphones of earphones she can wear... or maybe you could invest in one for yourself.
    Zazen aside, I would go mad if I had to listen to TV all day, so I feel your pain.

    Gassho
    ST

  17. #17
    Every time I attend Treeleaf zazenkai I have a lot of background noise (video games in my case -- my spouse is a Twitch streamer). I do not have it going all day like you, Geika, but I can imagine how difficult that would be to deal with. In lieu of noise canceling headphones, I think white noise is a great idea and might try that myself if things ever become too distracting or I need a break.

    Gassho,

    Ryan
    Sat Today

  18. #18
    There are many sounds which bother me and I know it's not possible to avoid them all so rather than change the world, I have been trying to monitor my reaction and to see where in that process I can make a change. One example was the sound of our old windshield wipers before they were replaces, screeching across the windshield whenever there wasn't enough rain to make a slippery surface but also when there was enough rain to obscure our vision of the road. What I tried was to listen to the sound and say to myself "it's not a bad noise, it's just a sound; avoid judging it as good or bad and just hear it for what it is; hear how empty it is of any kind of value or meaning." It didn't always work, but sometimes it did, and it was almost blissful being able to hear that sound and being unbothered by it; and the more I did it, the better I got at it.

    Gassho
    Kyōsen
    Sat|LAH
    橋川
    kyō (bridge) | sen (river)

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyōsen View Post
    There are many sounds which bother me and I know it's not possible to avoid them all so rather than change the world, I have been trying to monitor my reaction and to see where in that process I can make a change. One example was the sound of our old windshield wipers before they were replaces, screeching across the windshield whenever there wasn't enough rain to make a slippery surface but also when there was enough rain to obscure our vision of the road. What I tried was to listen to the sound and say to myself "it's not a bad noise, it's just a sound; avoid judging it as good or bad and just hear it for what it is; hear how empty it is of any kind of value or meaning." It didn't always work, but sometimes it did, and it was almost blissful being able to hear that sound and being unbothered by it; and the more I did it, the better I got at it.

    Gassho
    Kyōsen
    Sat|LAH
    Nice little out in the world practice.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  20. #20
    I was tested for hearing at the University of South Dakota near our home. The specialists assured me that I had deafness in my right ear, so this week I complained to my wife. She gave me an ear wax removing tool$!Then kind doctors object to. I inserted the tool deep to the guard on the device. Used as directed. Out fell
    A 1/2 inch pice of wax.!None of the warm water treatments at doctors offices had don any good, I guess I b was lucky no damage to my ear at BB all. My hearing in had returned 200%
    And so beautiful to listen to music which I thoroughly enjoy. Next to n beautifully written poetry, I feel with my ears, poetry making use of sound and sense I find my true calling. Now I can hear myself when I read poetry to myself. What beauty.
    Tai Shi
    sat / lah
    Gassho


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    The object of practice is not transcendence but transformation, yet ultimately we must transcend ourselves. (Elucidation of Dogen) in HOW TO RAISE AN OX

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc View Post
    Many years ago, I lived in an apartment that had a fair amount of noise from outside. I used earplugs, and found it fine, but today you might want to use noise-cancelling headphones. I think either of those solutions is better than white noise, because the white noise won't fully block out the extraneous sounds, and you'll be on heightened alert listening for them.
    I am not looking for complete silence, because that is a pretty unnatural lack of sound, and is never really part of a daily zazen practice. The white noise, while not completely blocking other sounds out, does not heighten my awareness of them, and for me it kind of creates a very easy to ignore blend of natural sound that allows me to drop it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Margherita View Post
    Surely there must be a type of headphones of earphones she can wear... or maybe you could invest in one for yourself.
    It is hard to explain why it would be very uncomfortable to ask her to do that... I guess every family has its own discreet politics. My own headphones are what I use for the white noise, and I like tgus arrangement because they do not block everything out, nor overwhelm my ears with the recording, and does not require me to ask her to change her habits.

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

  22. #22
    would you be able to sit before she gets up or after she goes to sleep when shes not watching the delightful sounds of tucker carlson’s sweet, sweet voice? (I kid of course )

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    would you be able to sit before she gets up or after she goes to sleep when shes not watching the delightful sounds of tucker carlson’s sweet, sweet voice? (I kid of course )
    Lol, I am gone for work long before she wakes, or on my days off I am sleeping later than her and she stays up much later than me. For now, I think I have found a good balance between when I use the white noise or not. It has really improved.

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

  24. #24
    Any church nearby that's open for public between the masses?
    Gassho
    Sat

  25. #25
    Possibly, but I don't wish to go into any places that hold large groups at any time of day. As of now, I have found a good balance.

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

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