Lai Fun lamented that during her recent meditation retreat in Myanmar, she observed her ability to listen to her teachers’ recorded talk from her walkman was at a tuned volume level of 3 whereas when she was back here in Malaysia, even the level of 5 seems an impossible feat for her to listen clearly to what the recording was conveying. Are you aware that there are noises humming around us and yet we are totally oblivious to it? It is like experiencing the quietness of the air-conditioning room until the unit is being switched off – that latter quietness is a vast contrast to what was before.
Both of us have, for quite awhile, concluded that the noise decibel here in our country is on the high side. I am not just referring to the obvious sounds you can pick up through your hearing but also the continuous drumming of minute noises lingering at the background. It is like experiencing tinnitus, except on a milder degree.
There are more vehicles on the road than before. There are also more people using mobile phone units. With affordable mobile phones for everyone plus the creative number of high pitched ringing tones occurring so very frequently in public places, it is of no wonder that the noise decibel here has increased multifold. I am also suspecting that the various bandwaves and frequencies used in electrical products are compounding to the noise.
When one stays in such places for a long time, one becomes numb to the experience, no longer seeing it as a problem. In fact some of us need noise to survive, as seen in students studying with their earplugs over their ears. It is a strange phenomenon, at least to me, to observe that they find difficulty focusing their study in silence than with noise in place!
Over to the mind. I have received numerous feedbacks from first timers into meditation commenting that the mind seems to be on a noisier mode while they are meditating compared to when they are not. Is that true? Or would it be more accurate to say that the overwhelming discomfort in the mind that is so ancient in every one of us makes us totally numb and oblivious until we quiet ourselves down in meditation? That is when we see the true colors of the mind playing out itself. The mind is in constant noise, constantly restless. It is always seeking something to do, to grasp, to fill its thirst of emptiness. That is the noise incessantly going round the clock, in our head all day long, not even sparing our sleeps, manifesting itself as dreams. Researchers conclude that we have 60,000 thoughts a day. I think it is an understatement. It is also found that 70-80% of those estimated thoughts are negative by nature. Isn’t that sad, if it is true? You may add these facts to your cart as another reasons for you to pursue a course in mindfulness meditation!
Years ago I was offered a trip to Nepal for my mindfulness meditation retreat. The centre, an outskirt of a three hour drive from Kathmandu, was nestled at the very age of a river that was connected to the Himalayan terrains. Unlike any river I have seen before in Malaysia, the torrential current of the river flow was indescribable. I had to practically shout to make a communication. I was told there are many incidences of people being swallowed by the river due to their own negligence. It was not an easy start for my meditation where I had to battle between the noise of the river current and the noise in my head.
It took me a while to arrive at my own peace and once I got used to the sound of the river gushing I was already making headway in my progress. One day an unusual experience got me really startled. It was a hot afternoon and I was sweating profusely, grumbling about the heat – so unconsciously in the mind. It was going on for awhile before I caught the mind in its restless state and that was when I started to realize an obvious similarity between the noise in my head and the sound of the river.
The unsettling restlessness in the mind has created a massive level of discursive thoughts to the extent that I was shocked to recognize a contrast between the relatively silent gush of the river and the incessantly noisy state that the thoughts were creating. The torrent of the noise in the mind was many times more intense and magnified then the voice of the river gushing through the centre! It was indeed a revelation. Without the river I would not have seen that contrast. It is of no wonder the Buddha used the word ogha or “flood” frequently in his discourses to define the nature of defilements – the cankers flooding through the mind.
Have you wondered that we are not much different than those people talking to themselves, at least not verbally, but in the mind – the internal dialogues and monologues, and probably trilogues! So what are external noises compared to the noise of the mind? Is the mind getting more and more noisier each passing day? You bet so. Just be silent for a moment and you will have a firsthand experience of what it is. All the best :).