Dealing with distracting noises during meditation

noisesIt’s easy to get distracted or irritated by noises you hear during meditation. Traffic, people talking, a phone ringing, someone coughing…

Here’s how to treat these noises so they do not stay with you and ‘ruin’ your meditation session:

  • Acknowledge the noise by naming it:  ‘traffic sounds’, ‘talking’, ‘cell phone’, ‘coughing’.  Labeling it allows you to be somewhat distant from it, so you observe it rather than allowing it to attach to you.
  • See yourself as transparent – the noise just passes right through you and then leaves.
  • See these noises as external to you. Don’t take these noises on and let them into your being.
  • Notice your own reaction – it may be ‘annoyed’, ‘irritated’, etc – acknowledge your reaction, the bring the focus back to your meditation.
  • See these noises and your reaction to them as ‘visitors’. They are temporary, and come and go.

As with anything that distracts you during a meditation session, simply and gently bring your attention back to the focus of your meditation. Do not be hard on yourself when you get distracted.

A healthy attitude to have regarding noises during meditation:

Learning to manage your reactions to noises is a good thing. It builds your tolerance to noises, distractions, annoyances in day-to-day life. As you build your ‘blanket’ of calm through the practice of meditation and mindfulness, you are better able to live your life amongst such noises and rise above them. So don’t worry when there are noises during your meditation practice – it will teach you acceptance and tolerance.

You do not have to create a perfectly quiet space in order to meditate.

Distractions, a busy mind, noises, thoughts – these are all normal to have several times in a meditation session, so do not fret about these, but do learn how to manage them.


8 thoughts on “Dealing with distracting noises during meditation

  1. Hi Wendy. As always your timing seems perfect. Are you living in my closet and observing me? (Tee Hee). My husband and I were meditating just this morning when an enormously noisy school bus rolled by rattling the windows. It totally disrupted the peace. We laughed – and then refocused but it was a bit difficult. So thank you for the techniques. We will certainly try them next time the garbage truck rolls by! Namaste.

    • Gee, I don’t think I’m in your closet! But it’s that great when a piece of useful information comes your way just at the right moment 🙂

      Thank you for letting me know. It’s always great to hear from people like you. Keep up the practice! and enjoy the benefits.

  2. Wendy as you know I live quite close to the train tracks and almost every time I meditate the train whistles or chugs along by and so initially it was hard for me to feel like it was not a distraction. I have since learned to embrace the sound as part of a background and visualize the world around me first and myself in a small clear dome of sorts, a dome of energy. I have since been able to find comfort in both the sounds of the train but everything else around me by reminding myself that I am so small in the big scheme of things.
    Once again thanks again for all you do.

    • Hi Grasshopper, that is helpful for people to read. Thank you. Thinking of such sounds as part of the world is a good way to deal with sounds. Wonderful that you have found a way to incorporate these into your practice.

  3. Dear Wendy… can you recommend a technique to improve inner concentration? Together with visualization, internal focus has always been the most difficult part of meditation for me. Thank you as always for your blog. I still listen to your meditations… very soothing.

    • Hello James,

      Firstly, thank you for your kind words and letting me know that you are still listening to my meditations. That’s lovely to hear.

      For improving concentration and focus in meditation, there is a lot to say here. What I find is that everyone is so unique. Different things work for different people. That being said, I do find that for many people, taking on the attitude of being VERY curious and interested in the focus of your meditation helps greatly. This means, for example, that if you are doing a breath meditation (focusing on your breathing as the focus of your meditation), then taking on a heightened curiosity about your breath can help. If you really observe your breath, and witness what is going on in your body with each breath you take, it becomes more interesting, and therefore easier to stay focused. If you have an attitude of ‘boredom’ with the focus of your meditation, then it’s easy to lose focus.

      Another thing I would say is that trying different types of meditation can help you discover meditations that may work better for you, to stay more focused. Often mantras that resonate with you and feel good will help you stay more focused. Even using words that you love to repeat (ie: calm, love, peace, relax, etc) can be the focus of your meditation.

      A third thing I would say is that often we are our hardest critics. We expect to be focused during a meditation session, but the reality is we are human and our minds will wander. If we have no expectations of how much we should be calm and focused during meditation, we are able to relax into the meditation easier. I always say to my students that if we find our minds are only 20% calm during a meditation session, and 80% our minds are monkeying around, then savour that 20% and realize that this is 20% more than you would get if you didn’t meditate at all.

      You’ve reminded me that I used to wonder if I was meditating ‘well’. A few months ago I had an EEG brain scan during meditation and the neuroscientist told me that I’m an exceptional meditator. I was surprised, because my mind feels busy a lot during meditation. Goes to show you that meditation works, even if we don’t think it is!

      Does this help James? You have asked a wonderful question. Perhaps I should write some posts about it.
      Please let me know,

      • Thank you Wendy. I will take these thoughts into my meditation practice this evening. Maintaining a heightened level of curiosity is a challenge, but what you say makes sense. I imagine that most people struggle with this area in their practice. Yes, I’d love to read more about this aspect of meditation. What you write resonates with me: I am a willing student for a willing teacher. 🙂
        Warmest wishes,

      • James, you make my day 🙂 Thank you.

        Perhaps read the comment that Grasshopper made as well. He has found that thinking of the noises as part of the world is helpful.

        Ease into meditation. Allow. Experience. This is the way to enjoy it. Be at ease being with yourself.

        I really appreciate your comments very much,
        Have a wonderful day,

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