Martin LeFevre: The Portal of Sound
The Portal of Sound
The meditative state began, I see now, the moment I saw the sharply etched hills against the blue and cirrus-clad sky. Feeling drawn to the hills rather than directing action toward them, I pedaled out into the country on the bike.
Every tree, bush, flower, and cloud seemed to leap forth into the brain. Meditation can occur anywhere, at any time. The screen of thoughts, images, associations, memories, and plans can fall away in an instant. But it usually still takes me a period of undirected and undivided observation in nature for the quiet and clear mind to emerge. Rather, for the confused and conflicted mind to drop away.
As I coasted down the dirt path toward the creek, the thistles on a non-native weed that has spread like wildfire in the Central Valley pricked my bare legs. Parts of the path are completely overgrown with them now. As I covered a 50-meter section, it occurred to me that no path worth taking is devoid of thorns.
Normally the smaller of the two creeks that run through town has dried up in the Central Valley’s relentlessly hot and rainless summer, but this year, late rains and a mild June have kept the stream flowing. A fire swept through the fields a few years ago, and the great, V-shaped sycamore was burned at the base of its trunk. Its large leaves were sparse last year, and fell prematurely, but this year the tree looks a little healthier, and affords more shade.
I sit under the smooth and white-barked sycamore on the steep bank of a bend in the creek, and the water burbles over a small cascade below me. The stream sounds predominate over the distant noise of cars across the fields. A mile or more away, I can make out an occasional vehicle ascending the highway in the direction of unseen Mt. Lassen, which is about an hour’s drive from here.
How important sound is to awakening meditation. Our ears are omni-directional, and unlike the eyes, we don’t direct hearing as we do our vision. Many people, especially Americans it seems, have the capacity to block out and completely ignore what they don’t want to hear, but that too is subconscious, an acquired habit of hearing impairment to the truth.
When you attend to the sounds coming to your ears, you’ll notice that your hearing becomes more acute, and you can hear sounds, and the meanings they hold, from further away. Without will or effort, the mind naturally begins to quiet down. Then one notices that sound is a kind of mirror, and one’s thoughts and emotions can be perceived as they arise in the same way that sounds are perceived as they arise.
If one keeps going with this process of undirected and undivided watchfulness, one enters another dimension of perception and awareness. But the separate observer is the first thing that has to go. Again, not through effort, but by questioning and catching the recursive pattern of consciousness in the act. The energy of seeing the mind dividing itself from itself stops recursive thought in its tracks —at least for a while. Deeply and energetically listening to sounds in the present moment is a portal to the timeless and infinite.
Listening to every sound, the meditative state deepens. Suddenly I see, as if for the first time, lusciously ripe blackberries in front of me. In another week most will be dried up. They practically fall off the barbed vines at the touch, and taste as good as they look.
Continuous thought dulls the senses and deadens the brain. Awakening the meditative state is not the purview of the leisured classes, nor the domain of the religiously minded. It has become, in this sensorially and spiritually assaulting world, a basic health requirement, a matter of internal hygiene.
Consciousness we know is killing us. Scientists and philosophers are making a big mystery out of it, which is like revering the circuitry and contents of the most advanced computer. As an object of study, thought-consciousness is neither very interesting nor serious.
There is another kind of consciousness available to the human being. It begins when the thinker ends, and thought-consciousness falls silent. The trackless path to it is full of thorns, but what’s new about that? Life always has been so.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.