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is wearing earplugs cheating?

Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

Dear lovely people of NB,

I have just come back from my first meditation retreat in a Buddhist monastery and am now experiencing culture shock. I feel vulnerable without the sangha here to support me. At the monastery, we were committed to keeping noble silence from dinner till breakfast the next morning. I wish to continue the silence at home, but alas, I live with very noisy family members. The blare of the TV, the rap music playing in the room next to mine, the seemingly constant arguments... I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of noise. Would it be cheating if I wore earplugs to mimic (albeit poorly) the atmosphere of the monastery? Or should I try my best to practice a la Ajahn Chah? ("It's not the noise that disturbs you, it's you who disturbs the noise!")

Funnily, they didn't disturb me nearly as much until I went on this retreat. I experienced such profound silence and meditation, it's so hard to adjust to regular life again!

lobsteryagrRodrigodhammachickStingRayRuddyDuck9

Comments

  • Bravo.

    Mind noisy. Environment noisy. Maybe play birdsong or tranquil sounds. Fortunately I can hear birdsong and a little traffic.

    Not cheating at all. Maybe play mantras. Whatever returns you to ... Peace ... <3

    mmoyagrdhammachickStingRay
  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    Thanks lobster. Or perhaps the cure is to go on more retreats? Already looking forward to a longer stay next time..

    lobsterdhammachickStingRayRuddyDuck9
  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    A wonderful reminder, @Earthninja. Thank you

    EarthninjaStingRay
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited January 2016

    More and longer peacefulness on retreat? You sure are a glutton for equanimity ... <3 You did not even tell us how the last one went? :cry:

    StingRay
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    One of the things that used to get my attention was that after a seven-day, shut-up retreat, participants would gather for a farewell tea ... and talk a blue streak. Me too. You'd think we had all been on a round-the-world cruise during which we had all seen endless marvels. Seven days of silence and then ... and then ... blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. What the hell could anyone have to talk about after seven days of silence?! The answer was, "Plenty!"

    I agree with anyone who may say they feel laid bare by a retreat. It's as if you went skinny-dipping and got out of the water to find that someone had stolen your clothes. It was naked-er than naked somehow. And it took a while to get back to 'normal,' find some clothes to 'begin' your life again. All those clothes and all that talk might feel somehow 'wrong' in the wake of a silent retreat, but how to be 'right' was not yet apparent. Enforced silence (as with ear plugs) wasn't quite right, but neither was anything else. Bleah!

    OK ... the only answer I ever found was to keep after it. Keep going to retreats and then notice over time that the difference between noise and silence is not so different after all.

    Best wishes.

    lobsterNirvanaStingRay
  • rohitrohit Maharrashtra Veteran
    edited January 2016

    Therefore it is adviced to practice meditation at four o' clock in morning. Or the time in the morning when everyone is busy in sleep.
    Or at night when there is no noise.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited January 2016

    @Kale4Dayz

    I would ask, from your retreat experience of meditation, why sound becomes noise,
    although I suspect you already know that answer.

    Is your meditation about learning how to allow all sense data to simply be what it is,
    or is it about promoting the clinging, rejecting or ignoring of any sense data?

    Morningstar
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    This might help @Kale4Dayz

  • Perhaps the retreat has made you more attentive to your surroundings, which is fine. Just expand it inward as well, and keep it going. :)

    StingRay
  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    Thank you all. Things have made more sense for me this morning. I think I just needed to give my mind some time to catch up to what it already knows. :) Another lesson for me on the importance of patience. And like @genkaku always says, keep on keeping on... by the way, I love the way you write!

    @rohit I have been trying but failing miserably! It was easy to get up at 5 AM at the monastery to meditate, but ever since I've been home, I have struggled to continue the habit. The sound of an alarm clock is not nearly as inviting as a bell reverberating throughout the mountains. Agh, there goes my discriminating mind again...

    @how I have been practicing "allowing all sense data to simply be what it is." The funny thing is I thought I was pretty good at that until I went on this retreat. I suppose that was quite arrogant of me! Coming home has been shown me more clearly where my weaknesses lie. :)

    @Shoshin Gosh. I am struggling to fully understand his message. I think due to my lack of experience and understanding. I hope one day it will click. But thank you for sharing.

    @namarupa I believe so too. At least today I do! Last night, not so much...!

    @lobster It was wonderful. I stayed at beautiful Deer Park Monastery with the monastics in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Since I began delving into meditation and Buddhism this past year, I came across many anecdotes online by people who have experienced "life changing" retreats. I'm glad to finally understand for myself what the hype is all about. :) I feel humbled and grateful for all the people I have met on this retreat, inspired by the way the monastics live life so deeply... there were so many wonderful moments, I could sit here for an hour and tell you all about it. But I think most folks here have already "been there, done that". I will share that my last day was particularly moving. During our morning meditation, when the monks began chanting, I found it so beautiful I almost cried. I have never cried because I found something beautiful before -- only when life seems ugly. So that was different! Later that day, my walking meditation really took off. Afterwards when I finally spoke to someone, I did not recognize the sound of my own voice. It was so gentle and melodious and... sweet? It was weird! In a totally amazing way of course.

    howlobsterRuddyDuck9
  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    I know I'm late to this party, but...I'd say not cheating at all. Perhaps you're simply not at a good point in your practice to, as @Earthninja put it, adjust your relationship to the noise. If the earplugs bring you some measure of peace and equanimity, then I'd say go ahead. It might be a different story if the presence of the plugs causes some sort of conflict in your family.

    Kale4Dayzlobster
  • @Kale4Dayz said:
    Dear lovely people of NB,

    Would it be cheating if I wore earplugs...?

    Of course not.

    lobster
  • OK ... the only answer I ever found was to keep after it. Keep going to retreats and then notice over time that the difference between noise and silence is not so different after all.

    True enough.

    Tee Hee ... Reminds me of my so far only one visit to practice CGI Buddhism, where they blasted us and shouted out the Gonzo mantra, I think it was.

    I intend to visit again as I believe they have a quiet room ... Maybe noise cancelling earphones would be in order for the group practice ... B)

  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    @lobster Sounds like Buddhist bootcamp!

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited January 2016

    ^^^ Indeed, it was pretty intense. I was just intrigued with SGI (not CGI special effects as reported earlier). The Nichiren Gohonzon (not the muppet as reported earlier) is a sacred scroll.

    However it is a relatively gentle group, its head members were considered for assasination by the more extreme Aum Shinrikyo boot camp.

    Long live Japanese Buddhism ... maybe! [lobster goes to hide behind The Buddha]

  • Or should I try my best to practice a la Ajahn Chah? ("It's not the noise that disturbs you, it's you who disturbs the noise!")

    Tee hee.

    That Ajahn Chah sure knows the source of 'noise'. <3 I believe he was some sort of Hinayana tree specialist ... ;)

    It is very beneficial to listen to noise. Meditation bell, chanting, lama droning, zen head twacking etc and compare it NOT with the sound but the experience of silence.

    In other words noise can initially be 'a disturbance in the force' but the force is always with us ...

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Ok, @lobster - can you shut dafuq up with the Hinayana references, please? We get it.

    Once it's funny,
    Twice it's a giggle
    Three times it gets boring.

    By my count you're around the 5 mark.
    Enough already.

    OK?

  • @federica said:
    Ok, @lobster - can you shut dafuq up with the Hinayana references, please? We get it.

    :)
    Talking of noise, right speech and such, we should not confuse our noise with anything but our personal small wheel turning ... but we no doubt get that too ... maybe I don't ...

    ... And now back to the original question ...

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Personal wheel or not, named drivers are just as capable of getting punctures as are the principal users.

    I trust you DO get it.

    And now, as you so rightly say - back to the original question.

  • A quiet, peaceful place is more conductive to contemplation, of course. That's why generations of monks work hard to create such a place when they build a temple. Our brains are hardwired to react to stimulus, because when the lion roars or you hear the rumble of the avalanche, you'd better pay attention. You inherited a mind that wants to be active when the world is active around it for good reason.

    That reminds me of when I attended my first meditation classes. They were held in Florida in summer, in a little UU church, and there was an air conditioner in the wall that had a noisy fan that drove me up the wall. The teacher did a "close your eyes and tell me what you hear" exercise, and of course we all said noisy air conditioner. He told us that, like thoughts, to identify the noise then dismiss it and then go back to focusing on our breaths. Then he said something like, "The world is as it is. Tonight the world is a noisy room full of people learning how to sit still and do nothing while a worn out air conditioner clangs and squeaks in the background. But if these people cough up some money before we leave, then next time the world will be you, me, and a quiet air conditioner. Either way, the world is as it is."

    If it helps, wear ear plugs. It's not like you're in a competition where someone is going to accuse you of cheating to win the meditation prize.

    silverrohit
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @Kale4Dayz said:
    Or should I try my best to practice a la Ajahn Chah? "It's not the noise that disturbs you, it's you who disturbs the noise!")

    I like this style better. It's easy to be undisturbed in silence. Practicing being undisturbed, in the midst of a bunch of hustle and bustle, is a great practice opportunity. It helps bring the "meditation mind" off the quiet cushion out into everyday life.

    lobstersilver
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited January 2016

    I've noticed that I am never disturbed by "natural" sounds like wind and rain, only by "man-made" sounds. Though I guess man-made sounds are natural too. ;)

    Ooops, I meant "person-made" of course.

    lobsterCinorjerrohit
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited January 2016

    OP, is there a basement space you could spend some evening time in, reading, meditating, etc.? Maybe you could create a supportive space for yourself.

    There's nothing wrong with wearing earplugs, but obviously, you'd have to take them out when someone started to talk to you.

    Yeah, I can relate. I really don't like TV noise. In spring and summer, you could spend time in the back yard in the evenings, to get away from the house noise. Meditating or reading under a tree can be very nice. :)

    Shoshinrohit
  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    @Cinorjer True... Haha! Your meditation teacher is funny. May I ask what helps you when you return from retreat and are suddenly thrust back into an "active" environment? Another thing I have tried is to keep the sangha and Thay Nhat Hanh in my heart, to "go as a river" as he teaches.. so I do not feel so vulnerable. I noticed today that I am very afraid of losing the strength of mindfulness I had at the monastery. I'm pretty sure that's a sign I need to let go of some kind of attachment there...?

    @seeker242 Yes that's what I used to tell myself and others too! I think I am causing my own suffering here by constantly comparing the beautiful silence I had before versus the situation I'm in now... @Cinorjer I believe I may have just answered my own question. :-P I'm having trouble appreciating the present moment for what it is.

    @SpinyNorman Me too. :smiley:

    @Dakini Our house is small, one-story with thin walls. I try my best to create a peaceful, private space but... argh. It's tough to maintain! And yes, I also escape when I get the chance -- to check on my vegetable garden and to take a walk around the neighborhood. Those breaks away from the madness of my family help keep my sanity intact! Thanks for your suggestions. :smiley:

  • @Kale4Dayz The world is as it is. If you find your current home noisy enough you will eventually figure out some way to move to a quieter place, or find some quieter spot to meditate. I used to walk to a cemetery not far from where I lived to sit and meditate. Either way, just remind yourself that nothing is permanent. Glad you had such a good time at the retreat. Did you write or email them to thank them for it? Those people worked hard to provide you with that experience.

    Shoshin
  • Kale4DayzKale4Dayz California Explorer

    @Cinorjer That's cool. I always think about doing that too whenever I drive by one. Yeah, that's a good idea. I did thank some of them in person before I left, but writing a letter will address the others that I missed!

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Kale4Dayz
    Like some other members here on NB, I also have 'tinnitus' , so wherever I practice there 'I am' ... quiet secluded place or noisy environment ... ear plugs or no ear plugs', them bells keep ringing...
    After a while one tends to make it part of one meditation practice....The meditation bell that constantly rings... :)

    Kale4Dayzrohit
  • I also have tinnitus and the sound of my breathing is also deafening when I'm wearing earplugs so background noise actually helps my practice.

    Shoshin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited January 2016

    Off Topic post:
    @FairyFeller
    Thus have I heard - literally:
    Tinnitus can be relieved by clearing the ears of the build-up of earwax.

    Having been an extremely long-term, chronic sufferer of this incurable condition, I can attest that doing so definitely works.

    I use a 3% strength Hydrogen peroxide, undiluted, administered with a small dropper.
    Treat each ear for at least 10 minutes, or until the sound of the fizzing stops.
    Repeat the following day if necessary.
    A prior hot shower helps, as this softens the earwax. Or a bath, when you can immerse your ears into the hot water....

    Off-topic post ends.
    _Pm me if required. _

  • @federica said:
    Off Topic post:
    @FairyFeller
    Thus have I heard - literally:
    Tinnitus can be relieved by clearing the ears of the build-up of earwax.

    Not in my case, my consultant told me my ears were lovely and clean.

    He referred me to our local Audiology department who fitted me for over ear white noise generators, tiny little devices like hearing aids. They work wonders, they generate a specific pitch of white noise almost identical to the whistle. I think over time it just gets the brain to accept it which in my case seems to be working, I find it far less intrusive even when I'm not wearing them.

    I know we're slightly off topic but as it's a subject raised by a number of members I think it's relevant.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited January 2016

    We've found 'white noise' doesn't work for me. It competes...! The more white noise is applied, the louder my tinnitus gets!
    The problem is that its type is not constant. The noise varies. I have a series of different tones, the most common and prevalent being like a gargantuan aviary, full of birds all shrieking their heads off, with one more persistent, loud little so-and-so out-doing the rest. His song varies.... Bless....!
    I also succumb to imitative tinnitus. That is, if I hear a synthetic tone, like an alarm, or a siren, my tinnitus repeats it throughout the day.

    Life is a blessing with untold treasures unfolding...!

    I measure my tinnitus on a scale of 1 - 10, 10 being really bad.

    After cleaning my ears, I'd say I'm down to a 4 - 5.
    Before, I'd easily reached 8.....

    rohit
  • I do not see any problem with artificially decreasing sensory input, as long as that does not prevent you from being sufficiently aware of your environment.

    I work in an "open office" and most people use noise cancelling headphones. That is how I listened to the Tibetan Book of the Dead in its entirety :)

    dhammachickKale4Dayz
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited January 2016

    @federica said: I also succumb to imitative tinnitus. That is, if I hear a synthetic tone, like an alarm, or a siren, my tinnitus repeats it throughout the day.

    That must be annoying! Harder to ignore.

  • raiwraiw Australia New

    @Kale4Dayz said:
    During our morning meditation, when the monks began chanting, I found it so beautiful I almost cried. I have never cried because I found something beautiful before -- only when life seems ugly.

    I attended a meditation retreat recently where I found myself crying because I was so grateful at having the opportunity to sit in meditation again. It was funny because i initially thought I was almost going to cry but had it all under control. But then I felt a single tear run down my face and fall into my hands in my lap. That tear was the most beautiful thing I had ever experienced and it opened the floodgates. Tears flowed for several minutes - because of gratitude! I will never forget that experience.

    silverlobsterdhammachickCinorjer
  • Bravo @raiw
    Welcome to newbuddhist.

    Tears of gratitude. Intense practice. Beautiful. You haz plan!

  • Steve_BSteve_B Far southwest corner of Indiana, USA Veteran

    Headphones or earplugs don't improve your environment, they separate you from it. I think the difference means that you are choosing between trying to achieve a peaceful mind in an overstimulating environment, which will greatly improve your powers, versus removing the stimulation by partially removing the environment you are experiencing. Which do you prefer, working on your ability to achieve inner calm under challenging conditions, or being free of the challenging conditions?

    lobster
  • Well said @Steve_B B) ... however we have to be aware of our real needs and present situation.

    People are at different stages. Some are unable to meditate in any form [lobster falls off his cushion in surprise] - strange but true. I would suggest that earphones, music, new age led meditations, any sort of calming is for some a prelude to more intense introspection.

    Noise cancelling headphones are legit BUT an experienced meditator will be aware of sound 'distractions' as no different to internal mind chatter.

    Just noise.

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