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This four-part, bell sound meditation is a short guided practice led by Arthur Zajonc. For our (overdue) weekend exercise, take these ten minutes to try this contemplative meditation. Then, reflect on your experience and share your thoughts with us:

  1. How did the sound of the bell help you focus your attention?
  2. Did you find that paying close attention allowed you to “let go” and be openly aware?
  3. How did/didn’t the voice of a guide help you in this exercise?

At Amherst College’s the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, you can find other guided meditations and Zajonc’s five-minute introduction to the bell sound meditation you heard above. Here, he describes this unfamiliar state of open awareness with a lyrical passage from the Tao Te Ching:

“Do you have the patience to wait ‘til your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving ‘til the right action arises by itself? The master doesn’t seek fulfillment. Not seeking, not expecting, she is present and can welcome all things.”

Updated: 2010.07.14 with stricken language.

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I am new to guided bell sound meditation in practice, though I know people who cannot begin or end their days without it. After I sat, impatiently, awaiting Mr. Zajonc's instructions (!) ... I surprised myself by noticing the difference in my body, mind and spirit. I will come back and try this again (and again). Thank you.

I had a similar experience to that of Centering Prayer and The Welcoming Prayer exercise at a retreat I went on once. There was something very distinct that happened during the welcoming portion, it was like a break in time or demarcation of sorts after which I felt supreme calm.

Delightful way to enter my morning quiet time! Thanks!

Quite interesting, in that, it seems much easier to let go of something (the bell sound) than to let go of everything (all distracting thoughts). A refreshing absence of mental clutter.

The monkey mind, having finished the banana, moves on...

Thank you. That was profound and completely necessary.

What a peaceful way to "drop" into a meditative state

It was the first time I did something like this. I am amazed to see how quickly and naturally I moved to a much more peaceful state. I think that starting with focusing on breathing was a great thing. The bell was a way to let other thoughts go.
A great experience.

i will need to come back when i have head sset current computer not able to produce sound. i look forward to this. I just took a minute & found even just visulizing / imaginationing the sound of the bell was transformational & wonderful. Imagine if we could invite the whole human villiage to try this for just once or a week -- Yes I do believe this is possible - easy maybe not at this moment but perhaps a very good endeavor - maybe start with our next gereration even. thank you for this experience

I was awake sleeping.

Thank you.

It certainly relaxed me. Then, I became VERY sleepy. It seems that when I stop "doing things" and "worrying," I either feel empty or get very sleepy. I liked the sound of the bell.

Very nice. So simple. And, so difficult. (I am a poster child for "monkey mind" referred to in post below.) And, like another poster stated, it may be easier for me to "take hold" of the bell's sound than it is for me to "let go" of everything else. (I don't "let go" very well . . yet). Thank you for this.

The bell announces itself in sudden presence and then slips away gradually in tonal waves that allow the light and the dark to become neither superior nor inferior to each other as likewise the mind and body give way to each other.

The sound of bells is like the heartbeat of universal soul and my connection through their vibrations to my neighbors and to all that is natural and true. I have heard bells throughout my life, even when they are still and touched only by the same air I breathe. On those now rare occasions when I am blessed with a bell's call, my spirit immediately answers with a peace, undetected until then, but intimately familiar to my essential being. Listen.

I tend to look for the big thing. This contemplation was so wonderfully simple that it allowed me to be... just be. Thank you

The bell both focused my attention and then was the way to expansion. I felt that I followed the reverberations into an expanded place and that was a very pleasant transition. In that expanded place I didn't have any particular revelation, just a peaceful state of awareness.
At first I found the guide's suggestion to re-hear the bell sound as an intrusion on my peaceful expanded place, but I decided to try that inner exercise again and found I moved smoothly from the sound of the bell back to the expanded state.
I had a vision during the bell sound that the reverberations are like a long tail that I follow to its sound perceptible end that then opens into a light filled, swirling motion space.
Thank you for this exercise. I will use it again.

The translation you offer is faulty, gender does not agree. If "she", then the term is more properly "Mistress", not "Master". Illiterates!

We shall never hear what you do. We are the maker of bells, you are but the Fool who rings it. Insensate and unknowing wretch, we MORE than hear it. We feel the blasts of fire, smell the burnt earth, are soaked in sweats, blistered from foundering, and madly blinded by the greasy lead. Oh such Joy! Oh such Peace!

We shall see you in Hell.
She has MANY bells.

contemplative, peaceful, relaxing - breathing exercise I believe is essential to enter the meditative state. Well done.

The guide was a distraction. A better way to use a guide (for me, at least) would just be at the beginning, with guidelines like he provided throughout, then just the bell sound.

Paying attention to the bell and the internal 'echoing' of the bell helped me to keep my thoughts from wandering. The voice was a distraction but with too much silence my mind wandered as in dreaming. At one point I felt a very strong sensation of my hand being held - very odd. Restful enough that I'd like to try more of this. My mind tends to repeat things over and over. Learning this might give me the ability to stop that annoying habit.

I listened to this guided meditation shortly after receiving news that the son-in-law of a friend tried to commit suicide. In the 'openly aware' part of the meditation, I found my compassion arising to surround my friend, her daughter, son-in-law, and three grandchildren in a way that was palpable.

Peaceful, inviting, and continues to fill me. Appreciated the guiding voice--helped me go into and stay in trance. Thanks.

I found that the sound of the bell, and the echo even more so, allowed me to keep my roaming thoughts at bay (something I generally find difficult.) I found this a relief and a wonderful tool. It makes me wonder if I can use the "echo of the bell" to help me focus my thoughts in "real" life, outside of a meditation practice.

The first ringlet me see a tiny blue flare of light; with the memory ring the blue grew up from a horizon and fluctuated, the second memory brought green and darker strands like stems through the moving greenery. When I released the sound, the blue color returned and intensified to indigo, purple and moving like clouds and filling my vision. In the end, with the re-releasing amidst the dark purple came a detailed glimpse of ancient yellowing teeth in a partial skull that was replaced by a turtle-like head and then the muzzle of an otter? and then two fish/dolphin forms and then a seaturtle and a progression of marine life forms I don't have names for. They were fascinating and beautiful and I felt compassion for them all. As for thevoice of the guide, I often was distracted/annoyed by its intrusion into my experience. How can one focus on one sound while listening to another? But I am glad for what came to me through this exercise. Thank you.

The meditation took me very deep. Even as I am writing these comments there is a deep stillness. I didn't experience the expansive feeling until the meditation ended. The guidance to open to the expansion in fact worked as a block of expectation. Though I could hear the resounding of the bell and the fading away the closing bell touched me even deeper than the original sound. Sometimes I try to hard. The ending bell allowed me to let got of trying. Thank you.

1. Tried to listen fully without thinking critically about the exercise.
2. Yes and no; tried this exercise once, motivated in part by my desire to increase my ability to work in the world.
3. My trust in Krista Tippett, Speaking of Faith and Arthur Zajonc - after having listened to "Holding Life Conciously" - helped me listen to the guide's voice.

This illustrated to me that quieting the mind is a practice I need to work on more. I had a difficult time letting the inner flow of thoughts quiet. But, I was able to really hear and re-create the sound in a tangible way. The reverberations of the bell connected me to thoughts of heartbeat and pulse--life reverberates like that. I wish to attend more fully in my prayer life.

I didn't want to let go of the bell sound!

1. Because I am auditory by nature, it was much easier for me to imagine the bell sound then in guided meditations involving visualizing. Re-imagining the sound cleared all thoughts from my mind and enabled me to start with a clean slate.
2. I felt a deepening where I went more into myself and from there could be open to what was around me. Which turned out to be noisey coworkers talking about the Queen ;) So I had to go back to the bell to re-center.
3. His voice kept my mind from wander too far. It still wandered but not as far as unguided. And he did not 'over-guide', he gave me space to do the meditation.

An artful guided exercise.
"Cultivate a mood of wonder"
"Invert your attention . . . expand . . ."
Closing with " . . .an inner gesture of gratitude' and "dedicating the fruits of the practice to all beings"
Wonderful. Thank you.

This was a useful guided meditation. I like the pairing of focusing inward by listening to the bell sound & then expanding awareness to include everything. This helped me to "just be"

I'm a novice at meditation but was able to respond to the quieting and focusing on the bell sound. I never got the opening awareness idea, though. Reading some of the comments here I am getting a little guidance. I love listening to the voice guiding me through the process. Without it, my mind wanders uncontrollably. I will try it again. Thank you.

The guiding was wonderfully done but for me words are so often distracting. The bell sounds alone were beautiful, especially at the end. Thank you.

Yes, the bell was very effective. It reminded me of my childhood and listening to the chimes of my grandparents' grandfather clock - I loved hearing them go off in the middle of the night and found it extremely relaxing. Yes, as I was paying close attention I could feel the stress and anxiety seep out of my body. The breathing exercise prior to the bell chiming was extremely helpful. The voice was very helpful - this person has a very soothly voice. I enjoyed this exercise very much!

Lovely. thank you!

I found the practice powerful but rushed. It would have been helpful if the guide had gone more slowly. After he stopped speaking I found I remained in the space for ten or fifteen more minutes. I liked using the bell as a mediation tool.

I liked the guided meditation but felt the quality of the audio on Mr. Zajonc distracting. The bell sound was intimate and clear, but during his s speaking I could hear cars passing outside and a kind of tinny white noise in the background. I guess I wasn't meditating well enough to either block it out, or not care...

I found the first stroke of the bell as a shiver in my upper hara (just below the sternum) which then reverberated up to my chest. My memory of the bell tended to make the sound deeper. Letting go I found rather difficult, since the mind was aware there was this feedback coming. In a word "staying in the moment" was harder

This guided meditation was so helpful! The bell sound helped me focus, then let go. I have tried Centering Prayer, a similar experience, but just fell asleep. Either this wonderful guide was just what I needed, or I was finally ready for it! Thank you for a lovely 10 minutes of peaceful contemplation!

The bell had a peaceful, reassuring sound, but I, at first, was anticipating the ring of the bell. As the practice continued I became more at peace with the bell.

This guided meditation was both soothing and distracting for me. I meditate daily and am used to meditating in complete silence these days. Years ago guided meditations was what kept me focused. That said, I was able to let go of the distractions of Arthur Zajonc's voice and let it become a part of the meditation. And by the end it became one of the best short meditations I have ever done. Usually I meditate for half and hour. This was perfect this morning because I only had time for a short meditation. I shared this on FB and will use it again many times, I'm sure.

An interesting technique...I found it easier to let go of the bell sound and then to be in the present than to concentrate on clearing the mind altogether or distract myself with a mantra.

I've been an intermittent practioner of meditation for years. I appreciate the experience of having a leader, particularly when I return to it after period of time. I'm pleased with this version and will add it to my repertoir. Thank you

So nice to hear all these comments. Thank you for listening. I just want to note that if you find this recording helpful, we have more available on our website at http://www.contemplativemind.o....

(Also, The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is independent, not part of Amherst College--just to clarify!)

Thank you,
Carrie Bergman

The sound of the bell razed the distractions in my mind. This exercise allowed me to focus and let go, the voice was a relaxing companion on my first real attempt at meditation. Thanks!

Beautiful meditation, calming, and spoken from the heart. - Melbourne Australia

The bell tone was calming, a thing for my mind to rest upon. But when it was gone, I felt my mind grasping for it to return, clinging to that single-pointedness.

I felt my the bell just beneath my skin in my arms and torso, the final bell fell over my head like a gentle water fall. The deep calm was most delightful and there was a resistance to coming out of it.

I thought that this was really fantastic, as it's only my second or third encounter with meditation, and having the guide helped me to find a unique calm within myself. Very restful.

a good family exercise.Very impressive. I am ten years old and I approve this message