Listening and Seeing Without Naming

When we sit in meditation, sounds and patterns of light are constantly rising up and falling away in the field of mind. We hear the sound of a car passing by, or a voice, or a bird call, and we say that is a car, that is a person, that is a bird. But if we allow ourselves to listen to the sound itself without attaching a name to it, without giving it form, without reducing it to an idea, we might penetrate to a deeper experience of it; we might enter a deeper and more primal world, a world beyond form.

The sounds that we hear in meditation are the easiest phenomena to work with this way, but by no means the only ones. As we leave the meditation hall and begin to move around the world, either in nature or on the streets of the city, we can continue to practice this kind of primal relationship with our experience; we can let go of the names we usually give to our experience and enter into the experience itself. Out in nature we can stop identifying the objects of our perception as trees and fields and lakes and thereby enter a primary world of color, shape, and pattern. We can do the same on a city street, not saying cars or traffic or stores or pedestrians to ourselves, but just letting these designations go, and inhabiting the jazz-riff patterning they mask.

And this exercise can be applied to the heart as well. Don’t name the things you feel. Just feel them. The language you use to describe these feelings is fraught with judgment. Stop beating yourself up for the things you desire. Let your idea of what you feel fall away, and penetrate to the feeling itself.

Spend a few minutes every day not trying to understand what people are saying, but just following their breath as they speak. Spend a few minutes every day ignoring the content, the physicality, of sound and allowing yourself to experience the silence at its center.

The world is far deeper, richer, more mysterious, and more beautiful than you imagine. So stop imagining it. Even just for a few moments a day, inhabit it without giving it a name.