Here is a great exercise in listening. It works best if you try it in three steps. Read the directions for the first step, and then close your eyes.

Step One:

Bring all of your attention to the experience of listening. What is the first sound that you became aware of?

There is a label by which we identify this sound - traffic, refrigerator, people talking, birds... But what's really happening? What is your actual experience of this sound? The actual physical sensations?

Immerse yourself fully in this experience called "a sound." Then, as if you are increasing magnification with a zoom lens, listen more closely to that sound. As if you could travel inside the sound, let it become your whole world. Take your time. Explore every sensation.

Step Two:

This time, rather than focusing on one sound, listen to all the sounds in your environment.

Some are louder - more in the foreground. Some are softer - in the background and harder to discern. Sounds come at you from all different directions - in front, behind, maybe even above or below. How many different sounds can you hear?

And now, rather than hearing individual sounds, hear all of these sounds at once. Imagine you are listening to an orchestra, and each of these sounds is one of the instruments. Listen to all the sounds in your environment as if they fit together beautifully into a piece of music. Sit back and enjoy the performance.

Step Three:

Choose one sound to focus on again.

Where are you hearing this sound? Does it seem like the sound is out there? But where does the experience of listening actually take place? Out there? In your ear? In your brain?

Imagine some event out there causing air molecules to vibrate. Imagine sound waves traveling toward your body ... entering your ear ... becoming mechanical vibrations in bones ... becoming neuro-electrical impulses ... triggering associations in your brain. Imaging all this going on, creating the miracle we call sound.

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