Every so often, I use noise generators to aid with concentration. A favourite site to find lots of them is MyNoise, which produces the sounds of everything from a Tibetan throat choir to walking by a riverbank, or just white noise. They seem to work best when they’re cancelling out background noise without being obtrusive themselves, and sometimes they seem to be just enough to keep the monkey mind amused so you don’t wake from a catatonic stupor scrolling Facebook and dribbling instead of doing what you were supposed to be doing.
I tried the coffee shop noise generator because it’s supposed to spark creativity, but I got distracted by people dropping cutlery and eventually I felt guilty because I hadn’t bought anything in a while even though I was in my living room. Then I actually went to a coffee shop and had to use a different noise generator to drown out the sound of generic easy listening and feral infants sprinting between the chairs high on babyccinos and brownies.
Meditation teaches you not to try and shut out the sounds around you, but to hear them, and accept them – so at the moment, I am accepting the ticking of a small clock, a solar-powered nodding Buddha that my wife doesn’t like and will try and get rid of soon, a flight departing Heathrow, the central heating pumping around the house and a small child grizzling somewhere nearby.
I can’t remember the last time I heard absolutely nothing.