Can you meditate with noise around you? Well in actual fact, meditating in a noisy environment can be really great for strengthening your meditation practice.
I mean you can’t always wait for that perfect silent space to be available, or you’ll end up limiting your possibilities and meditations.
And what’s the point of meditation, if not to integrate it into our daily lives?
I’m not saying meditating with noise is best for every meditation. I mean, I prefer meditating in the quiet for sure.
And it’s much easier to meditate when you haven’t got noises piercing into your focus to interrupt you – but it’s also super helpful to practise meditating with noise around you.
In this article we’ll look at why you can also meditate with noise around you.
And why everybody should do it sometimes.
Because you know, we can all transcend our limitations, even if we think we can’t meditate.
(Featured image by Sam Williams on Pixabay)
Table of Contents
Do You Need Silence to Meditate?
Meditating in silence (or in a relatively quiet place) is probably what you visualise when you imagine somebody meditating.
They may be sitting in a green field with the occasional birdsong to accompany them, but with a relatively silent environment. They may be meditating in the dark, in a closed room of the house while all the other members of the household are sleeping soundly in their beds.
These are two of the most cliché images of what it involves to meditate, and there’s nothing wrong with them at all.
Except that it isn’t always possible to find the opportunity for such a perfect setting and in that case, it’s best to settle for the noisy background and get practised at meditating with noise around you.
And what about if you’re going on holiday? Are you just gonna roll over and give up your meditation practise?
No way José!
Yes, it’s true honest, you can meditate while travelling. And then you’ll be sure to have plenty of noise around you to strengthen your meditation practise!
Why not set yourself a challenge and see how many weird and wonderful different places you can meditate in in the space of a week.
Or on holiday.
Or whatever parameters you want to set. Go have some fun with it.
Is it Better to Meditate in Silence or With Sounds?
The best way to meditate is to meditate in all situations.
This is similar to the question of whether you should meditate with music or without. Each meditation situation brings its own experience and all of them are valid.
Maybe you sit down to meditate on a question and go into a contemplative meditation in search of insights.
You may meditate in silence in search of enlightenment or connecting to the Oneness, or you might practise a mindfulness meditation to become more conscious in the Now.
You can practise mindfulness meditation to learn mindfulness skills on your own.
And the more you do it, the stronger you become and the more rewarding it is. In answer to the question of how long it takes to learn mindfulness, the answer is right now the present moment.
There’s no end goal, just an ever growing awareness of the continuous moment of Now.
I find meditating in silence best for going deep within and finding true stillness, while mediating with music is a wonderful way to meditate to relax and de-stress and refill the body’s batteries after or during a busy day.
It can still be a powerful meditation practise, but it’s different to the stillness.
And doing mindfulness meditation with background noise around you is a great way to strengthen your ability to meditate as you simply sit and witness the noise, without entering into dialogue or judging what’s happening.
The more you meditate with noises around you, the more you’ll strengthen your ability.
How do You Ignore Noise When Meditating in a Noisy Environment?
You learn to ignore noise by allowing your attention to rest elsewhere, and by accepting the presence of the noise. The more you resist the noise, the louder it will become, so whatever method you choose (see below), the key point is to embrace the sounds and accept them fully.
Only then will you be able to be fully immersed in it and unaware of it going on in the background.
You know, I once lived right on the edge of a high-speed rail track in Italy. The first night that I was there, while I was sleeping a train passed through and I woke up with such a fright, as though there had been an earthquake it was so loud.
The house literally shook from the sound and it lasted for several minutes as the long train thundered through the station without stopping. About 2-3 trains would pass through each night.
Well can you guess what? After a short while living there I no longer heard the trains at all. I mean ZERO! My mind knew that it was a train passing through so it no longer bothered me with the information, and I slept like a baby.
This is the incredible power of the mind, and if we can apply the same logic to a noisy environment and tune out of the noise, then you will be able to truly ignore it, because you won’t be hearing it at all.
Don’t worry if you still hear the noises around you, that’s totally ok and normal. Just accept them and let them be and return your focus to your breath.
How do You Meditate in a Crowded Room?
One source of noise is a crowd of people, and that can be a challenging environment to meditate in. You might wonder whether you can meditate with your eyes open in this kind of situation.
The best meditation for this situation may be to practise mindfulness rather than try to go into a deep meditation with the risk that somebody could come to you and interrupt you in the middle of your bliss.
So rather than sitting down to meditate, instead begin by focussing on your breath. As you breath in and out, allow the outer world to become a blur.
Be aware of what’s going on around you without interacting with it. In this way, if you’re called on to converse with somebody, you’ll be able to without being jolted out rudely!
How to Meditate in a Noisy Environment
Further down you’ll see 5 ways to meditate in a noisy environment, but before getting stuck into the details, how do you meditate in a noisy environment generally?
Firstly, are you going to be doing a seated meditation or are you meditating on your feet?
If you’re sitting down to meditate, you’ll find the tips below helpful for your meditation. Remember to view the noise in a neutral way, not as a negative and know that meditating in a noisy environment is a great way to become more focussed and less distracted by events taking place around you.
If you feel negative towards the sounds, send them gratitude for the opportunity they are giving you to strengthen your meditation practise.
Meditating on Your Feet in a Noisy Environment
It’s possible to meditate while standing in a queue or sitting on a bus, just by connecting inwardly for a few moments. Allow the chaos around you to carry on as you clear your mind and focus on your breath.
A short meditation like this is a great way to revitalise yourself during a busy day as well as being an effective stress-coping mechanism and mental boost.
If you think you can’t meditate on your feet in a noisy environment, you may like to read Joy on Demand by Chade-Meng Tan (read more about it in this article on how to meditate if you don’t think you can).
Preparing to Meditate in a Noisy Environment
If you’re wondering whether there’s a wrong way to meditate, then as you’re preparing to meditate in a noisy environment, remember that it doesn’t matter the outcome. Nothing matters. You’re already gaining just by taking this time to sit and meditate.
Make yourself comfortable in the seated position you prefer for meditating. For some, this means sitting in a comfortable chair while for others, sitting on a cushion on the floor would be their chosen posture.
You can also meditate lying down, but the risk of falling asleep is higher, so because of that, many people prefer to sit.
As you sit, pre-meditation, begin by breathing deeply and become aware of your environment. Listen to each sound as it happens and acknowledge it.
Try not to judge it as bad or good, just accept is as it is. If you resist the noise around you, it will interfere with your meditation practise. I like to take a moment to accept it before I begin.
At this stage, begin to take stock of your body by doing a body scan, blending the awareness of your body with the awareness of the noises in your environment.
5 Ways to Meditate in a Noisy Environment
There are various ways to approach this but the way I meditate with noise around me is just like normal meditation, but the noises are like thoughts and if you notice yourself focussing on a noise, bring your attention back to the breath.
There are different ways to meditate with noise around you. Some will be better suited to some kinds of noise than others. And some methods may resonate with you more than others do, too.
Explore them until you find what works best for you.
#1 Include the Noise in Your Meditation
In the beginning of your meditation, zoom in on each individual sound. Start off by noticing one sound above another.
Allow this one sound to become as loud as possible within your mind before letting it go and moving on to the next noise and repeating the exercise with that one.
Don’t think about the sound, just allow it to be a part of your breath.
When you’ve singled out all the individual noises that are going on in your environment, allow the sounds to blend together into one large cluster of sound, like a group ensemble, a cacophony of sound.
At this point, begin to release it and breathe along with it and continue with your meditation with the sounds playing in the background, muted and out of focus.
#2 Create a Musical Quality from The Noise as You Meditate
Another approach is to ‘immerse yourself’ in the noises as though they were music, but to do this kind of meditation it’s easier if the noises are constant rather than sporadic, otherwise you might find yourself waiting and anticipating the next noise.
If the sound is continuous, like machinery working in the background, use the noise as though it were a chant and focus on the rhythmic sound for your meditation.
Don’t judge the noises or enter into conversation with your mind, just let them be at the basis of your meditation and bring your attention back to them each time it wanders.
#3 Treat the Noise as an Exercise in Mindfulness
Simply allow the noises to exist and observe it objectively, without judgement.
Focus on your breath, and whenever your mind strays to a noise, be aware and allow it to be as it is.
#4 Wear Sound Cancelling Headphones
If you struggle to gain your meditation vibe among all the noises around you, you can wear quality headphones to reduce the impact of the environmental noises until you feel stronger at meditating in a noisy environment.
#5 Block Out the Noise with Music
Ok, so this won’t help you to actually practise meditating with noise around you, as you’ll basically be blocking out the background sounds rather than meditating with them going on.
But wearing headphones with soft meditation music is worth considering, especially if you’ve had a hard day and want to relax rather than practise deep meditation.
Meditating to music is always a great option to remember when faced with lots of environmental noise.
Video: Dealing with Noise in Meditation
What to Avoid While Meditating in a Noisy Environment
- Focussing on the noise with irritation
- Getting into an inner dialogue about the noise (It’s busy / I wonder what that is . . . etc.)
- Putting off your meditation because of noise.
Final Thoughts on Can You Meditate with Noise Around You?
Does meditation work? You can only answer this question when you’ve been meditating for a while and truly taken it into your rhythm and then you’ll look back and see ways in which you’ve changed since you first took up meditation.
Meditating can be anything and everything and also it can be nothing. It will be whatever you allow it to become. Whether you choose to set a timer for your meditation or just meditate the length of time that comes naturally to you each day, the important thing is to make it a part of your routine.
By practising meditation in a noisy environment, you’re re-enforcing the act of meditation without expectation. Meditation for the moment.
We all know that there are tons of benefits which come from a regular meditation practise, but these benefits aren’t always visible in the actual moment when they’re happening.
Just as when you eat a healthy diet the changes come afterwards, so is it with meditation. And the link between diet and meditation is another whole doorway into ways to improve your meditation as everything we eat affects us physically, mentally, energetically and spiritually.
Do you have to be vegan to be spiritual? You don’t have to be anything, but in my opinion, there’s a definite relationship between mindfulness and a vegan diet.
If we can build a subconscious anticipation for the joy of the moment which we receive when sitting in our meditation then we can create a daily habit which will bring us enormous physical mental and spiritual benefits.
I hope, when you have no other option than to meditate with noise around you, that you now do it with a sense of gratitude and appreciation!