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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

Mindfulness of Sounds

In Mindfulness of Sounds we pause for a moment and just listen. Allowing our attention to settle into hearing and sounds as they arise from one moment to the next.


Each experience we have, each sound, sight, smell, taste, body sensation, or thoughts automatically evokes a feeling that is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

Just like a barometer the mind/body is constantly registering events, such as sounds, receiving a moment by moment read out as to how pleasant or unpleasant they are.

Our habitual reaction to pleasant sounds is attachment - a desire to hang on to the experience that led to them and to get more of such experiences. These kind of sounds could be soothing music, the gentle lapping of the ocean at the beach, or the dawn chorus of birds.

Our habitual reaction to unpleasant sounds is aversion – a need to get rid of the experiences that created the unpleasant feelings to prevent them happening again the future. These kind of sounds could be anything from loud television coming from next door, a car alarm, or people shouting.

When the feeling is neither pleasant nor unpleasant our habitual reaction is to lose interest to tune out and we become bored.

The practice teaches us that the annoyance of some sounds does not come from the sounds themselves; it comes from our interpretation of those sounds as somewhat ‘unpleasant’.


In Mindfulness of Sounds we allow our awareness to open so that there is a receptiveness to sounds as they arise, wherever they arise.

When we bring mindfulness to sounds, we shift our relationship from aversion to curiosity, allowing the sounds to rise and fall, lessening their negative impact.

There is no need to go searching for sounds or listening for particular sounds. Instead we simply open our awareness so that it is receptive to sounds from all directions as they arise. Sounds that are close, sounds that are far away, sounds that are in front, behind, to the side, above, or below. Aware of obvious sounds and of more subtle sounds, aware of the space between sounds, aware of silence.

As best we can, we try to be aware of sounds simply as sensations. When we find that we are thinking about the sounds we reconnect with direct awareness of their sensory qualities (patterns of pitch, timbre, loudness, and duration) rather than what they mean or any implications they might have for us.

Whenever we notice that our awareness is no longer focused on sounds in the moment, we gently acknowledge where the mind had moved to, and then retune the awareness back to sounds as they arise and pass from one moment to the next.

When we bring mindfulness to sounds, we shift our relationship from aversion to curiosity, allowing the sounds to rise and fall, lessening their negative impact.

Mindfulness allows people to suspend their habitual ways of relating to negative experience often by seeing more clearly, and then decentering from judgements and expectations, so that such reactions lose their usual potency to destroy the quality of the next moment.

Mindfulness of Sounds is used as part of Mindfulness-based approaches to therapy. I use Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy to help clients overcome a range of issues including anxiety, panic attacks, recurrent depression and stress.

Please get in touch if you would like to learn more or book a free consultation below.

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