Letting Sounds Be Sounds

We all make sounds with our instruments, but what about other sounds? What about the world around us and how it sometimes intrudes upon what we are doing?

When playing a meditative session, the idea is to provide silence so that people can relax. The only sounds should be the musical ones we introduce. But in the real world, sounds are everywhere. Try as we might, silence is a fantasy. There are always sounds happening.


I remember during one of my early sessions, the yoga studio was located on the main street of town. I was in my zone with the vibes flowing, when suddenly a large truck drove by making all sorts of loud noise. My concentration was broken, and I was sure everyone's restful mood was also. But I kept going, and afterwards, no one mentioned the truck. The same thing happened at a studio next to a railroad track. The train came by and took what seemed like forever to pass. But again, afterwards, no one mentioned it.


We live in a very noisy world, and as humans, we have adapted to this noise. Our nervous system is able to filter out extraneous sounds so that we ignore them. This is necessary, otherwise we would be in a constant state of agitation from the sounds all around us.



“Let sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for man-made theories or expression of human sentiments.” John Cage

So rather than looking at extraneous sounds as a disturbance and trying to ignore them, I've tried to embrace them. When something happens, like a loud motorcycle, a jet overhead, or something else, I just go with it. In my mind I also try to make it a part of what I'm doing, sort of taking it in, or absorbing the sound to make it a natural part of everything. Sometimes I'll even play along with a longer sound, like a train passing by.


Carnage in the streets

And this has worked fine, with one exception. Last year I had just finished a session and started talking about it when there was a loud crash out front. A car had come down the street and crashed into a whole line of parked vehicles. I was rather stunned by it. People were shouting outside and everyone went to the windows, with some worried that their car may have been crashed into. Most of the people quickly gathered their things and scattered, the session abruptly over.


In all of these cases, there was nothing I could do, except let the sounds be themselves. 


~ MB


Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™





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