Thursday, August 5

Mindful Monday: Listening for What Can’t Be Heard

In last week's Mindful Monday post, I mentioned that for several weeks, I have been taking a course in cultivating compassion through lovingkindness (or metta) meditation practice, in which you "send" compassionate intentions and blessings toward yourself and others. There are many teachings about this meditation, which are not in the scope of today's blog post, but for an example, see this article by Sharon Salzberg, a noted insight meditation teacher who specializes in teaching classic metta meditation.

During this course, I have been having trouble feeling authentic compassion and warmth for myself and others. I sense that I'm merely saying the words by rote-- "May I be happy. May I be free from suffering. May I know peace and joy" -- and not doing the practice with compassion and sensitivity. Supposedly, even if you feel fake while repeating these or similar phrases, it's still effective, but I felt blocked and apathetic in continuing this way.

Recently, I came across an article that shows another way in to lovingkindness practice called Mahamudra metta. The part I was interested in today was how to prepare yourself for the practice using a technique called "Ships in the Harbor." According to Ron Crouch who is a meditation teacher in Hawaii and cites Kenneth Folk for this technique, we listen for what can't be heard:

[L]isten for ships that are in a harbor which is many miles away, so far in fact, that it is literally impossible to hear the ships. In the moment when a student directs their attention toward listening for something they know cannot be heard, the mind is turned toward emptiness. If you haven’t tried this before, try it now, it only takes a few seconds… There is a perfection to that emptiness, a sense that it is pregnant with potential. Rest your attention there long enough, and peace becomes a default state.

I found this simple technique enormously helpful in quickly settling my jumpy mind and preparing myself to extend lovingkindness to myself and others or just do simple breath meditation. I invite you to try it for yourself.


What do you notice when you listen for nothing?


for Mindful Monday


© 2014, post, Donna Pierce
Photo credit: 2009, Rayshade.

#mindful #monday #findingGod


  • Thank you Donna.
    My jumpy mind has been known to become impatient with similar practices. So, it regularly tries convince me to look for answers elsewhere. I have to be patiently persistent and remind myself that no matter where I look for the answers, I will be bringing jumpy mind with me. So, I might as well stay where I am…

    • Thanks, Kelly. It is helpful to be aware of Jumpy Mind’s many “tricks,” and lord knows that Jumpy Mind is ever with us. From admittedly what little I know so far from both articles cited in this post, Mahamudra metta, from the Tibetan tradition, is another raft to the same shore of metta. As with walking meditation, I am finding it helpful during this time in my life when I am experiencing severe anxiety. Thanks for reading and commenting. Gassho _/_

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