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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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126 Comments

I like the sound of the bell resonating within me. I cannot get enough.

On the fourth sounding of the bell I aquired a kind of acoustical image. The final bell sound had a width our breadth to it that I was not aware of the three previous times but after hearing it and recreating it mentally the fourth sounging was uniquely different, fuller.

This was an incredibly beautiful experience for me. I am just beginning to experiment with meditation as a part of my Sabbath. I think I will use this for a while, until I become more comfortable meditating on my own.

I am just beginning to incorporate meditation as a part of my Sabbath practices. This bell meditation was incredibly helpful for a novice like me. I plan to use it again. I needed the voice to guide me. I did the meditation with the Quaker palms down/palms up approach.

(Megan) Interesting! I did the palms down when I started the meditation and then palms up when it was time to let go. I do this when I meditate and I find it very helpful. Also, a novie at meditation and definitely needed the guide.

I could see and feel the pressure of the sound waves reverberating on the surface of the brass bell.
I've been experiencing great difficulty concentrating and have been considering pharmaceutical treatment, However after experiencing this exercise, I feel meditation is truly a more responsible and healthy way to center my thought process.

The guide enriched the experience.

Thank you.

I have never tried this type meditation before and it was amazing. I am still wiping my tears away as it helped me connect with my true feelings. The sound of the bell helped to block out outside sounds but most importantly of all my racing thoughts. Then, when I sat openly and aware the word FEAR came into my mind and I just started to sob. But it was a cleansing type of sobbing. Recognizing that what I am going through can be fearful but I don't have to let it control me by letting it go through tears. I WILL definitely come back and do this meditation over and over again during this period in my life where I need to be the most in touch with my body, emotions, etc... AMAZING... Thank you for opening my world to this.

The bell sound did help me focus, inward, my consciousness.  It is a beautiful sound, calming and gentle. While I did have to return my mind to the practice occasionally, I was without judgement about having to do that. When the guide asked that I release the sound from consciousness, I found that what replaced it was the open sky....
So, yes, the guide helped me, the sound allowed me to focus away from everyday concerns for a bit, and the release of the sound allowed the openness and possibilities of the expanse of the sky to take a place in my being.

I did not think I would have the patience for it, but I did! ... and it was wonderful - Thanks

This guy is really pissing me off, his voice and the way he talks.  Like bad, pretentious poetry.  If I want to meditate or concentrate, give me something interesting to listen to!  Or at least not annoying!

and People: there's nothing "in" there!  It's not in there, it's out here, and you're not taking part in it (and thus incapable of "seeing" or "hearing" it) as you sit alone in your head focusing on your breath.  (plants can breathe!  machines can breathe!)  It's the w o r l d, but only with you in it, not your empty mind or a worldful of mind (God forbid!) but y o u, someone spoken to and speaking, thinking, choosing, daring, shirking, acting.  That is your mind!  That is you!  Not your brain!  Not "presence" or "awareness".  Presence of who? Awareness of what? of who?  You are already part of it (sitting in your self-disabling Buddhist consumerism, hiding in a lifestyle, blinded to reality -- not the "presence" of the incense burning on your desk or your labored organic breath -- but the reality of the world, human reality, the only reality thinkable and possible, and only thinkable and possible in communication, interaction, association, solidarity, freedom.   

Wake up!  You want to be aware?  You're concerned with suffering?  What are you doing about the suffering of the people who made your yoga mat?  

Lovely meditation. The bell filled my body with warmth and even though I don't think of myself as having a good auditory memory I was surprised at being able to remember the sound. Like someone else commented: I didn't want to let the bell go. When I did I was empty--but then thoughts about some recent personal losses appeared for awhile. Thanks for the bell at the end!

Love the concept of doing a bell meditation over the internet and appreciate your offering one. I found myself being frustrated, however, by all the instructions that kept me from engaging very deeply.  I was also a little distracted by the sounds of someone walking by in the background and cars honking at one point).  I realize the need for guidance, but perhaps one version could be recorded with only the most minimal guidance.  Finally, when ringing the bell, I'd let it ring completely before sounding it again. I was still concentrating on the sound, which was still decaying, each time the bell was struck again.  Please accept these criticisms in the spirit of gratitude, though, in which they are made!

The bell sound really relaxed me as it's sound faded to a nothingness each time.  The voice should be that of a very soft spoken female.

This was such a gret way to get back into a peaceful state for worship! Thank you!

Thank you.

I use natural sounds for my meditations, such as the sound of rain, flowing water, a forest or ocean waves. I can reach very deep states for a long time by actively listening to all the different nuances of natural sounds. A site that offers a great variety of such sounds is http://www.TranscendentalTones...

Thank you.  Peace and tranquility now fill the center of my soul.
The chaos and striving have departed.
I carry the memory with me for this new day.

I really enjoyed the bell meditation.  Please talk to me about how the bell meditation and social change intersect?  Half way through the meditation I realized there was arguing going on next door and I was really getting annoyed.  Toward the final end of the meditation I started to cry because I realized there is so much suffering on the planet, in my neighborhood, and even in my home.  Thank you for offering this exercise, from the meditation I want to be more aware of consciously loving and forgiving all whom I come in contact today and let go of expectation from others.  Just for today!

The mediation made me feel relaxed. The instructions were simple but effective. The concept of "openness" was still a little confusing for me. I will try again.

ThaNK YOU.

a master guru teacher once told me, "young Sir, you cannot see the bottom of a pond as you stir it with a stick"....it was a set of free classes i took in the 70's. i have been working on it ever since. thank you this helps....

I tried this after waking up from a night of fitful, violent dreams. At first I was worried that some of this would enter into my meditation. Instead, my thoughts kept coming back to the people that I loved... how deeply and roundly that love resonated in me... how precious it was to be able to touch or connect with another person. I will start my day now feeling enormously blessed. Thank you.

Lovely, just lovely. And maybe I'll remember to hear the bell in memory throughout the day. Thank you.

The bell helped me let my attention settle on one thing as if the sound of the bell being struck was compelling enough compared to other events in my external and internal experience. I don't know that "paying close attention" helped open awareness. I got caught up in the distinction between being openly aware and distracted, that is, the difference between being open to and being caught up in. The voice helped direct me except when the voice came in while I was attending to the bell sound from memory. Then the voice was a distraction.

I know this sound.  I've been meditating for years and the bell is used when there is a large group of us, or on various recordings.  It's a lovely sound and I suspect i've come to associate it with the opportunity to 
go deeply within...and I go.  The voice of the guide is tricky--sometimes mildly annoying and yet always do-able. I have no strong feeling either way....but once the bell sounds, there is no need for further "instructions".

I have done the "bell meditation" daily for awhile now.  I find it very hard so far to still the chatter in my mind whilch intrudes over and over.  I find myself obsessing about the chatter, adding yet another layer of mental noise.  I wonder if anyone has found some secrets or tricks to get more than a few seconds of open access.to allow anything to arise.other than humdrum thoughs that occupy my mind when I'm not trying to meditate.  Fasting?  Exercise?  Prolonging the meditation?

I keep coming back to this one and know that sound helps me stay with the practice. Many thanks

I have meditated for 40+ years - usually TM and more recently include walking meditation and a meditation using hand gestures.  I love the sound of the bell.  I find it calming and it helps my bodymind effortlessly expand.
In the beginning the voice of the guide felt intrusive with its wordiness.  As I deepened, I could pluck what I needed to hear & let the rest go.
I'm teaching a meditation class for LGBT seniors, and plan to use this.
Thank you.

 I was also surprised.  My finger was impatiently tapping as I was listening to the instructions but at the end I noticed my finger not tapping anymore and I felt calmer.  I would like to find just bell meditation now I like it.

Thank you.

I love your show! Been a fan for years.

The suggestion of bell-sound meditation combined with the picture triggered an immediate response. I heard the bell's dual tones resonating in my ears & felt it in my body. I closed my eyes & allowed myself to reconnect with that maternal place of consciousness we miss & long for. With my smart phone slipping through my hands & the inevitable thump on my forehead as I read in the dark hours of morning before getting ready for work, I realize there never was the sound of the bell. Yet, the 30 seconds of meditation was equally real & immeasurably calming & fortifying. Now, to find an audio of the same bell I heard!

Norman
Lincoln, NE
http://allegoryalligator.wordpress.com

1-Maybe not the striking of the bell with the initial harsh beats it produced, but the fading of the bell, revealing all those harmonics felt like we were doing to sound what a prism does to light. It's easy to focus on something so beautiful. 2- the strange thing was during the "let go" phase when he says to be ready for whatever thoughts rise to fill the space, I became unnerved because I expected some thought to come and it didn't, not until the thought of body tension came in as a result. One thing that really impacted me was the statement "let yourself be ready to receive any and all things. All things, meaning be ready for an earthquake, a whisper, sex, a burglar, a visitor, a knock on the door, or nothing at all; I reflected on the typical postures we take on to receive each of these things... is there an inner posture that makes ready for all of these things? I attempted this union and am unsure of my success, but found the attempt both fun and enlightening.

Very peaceful and calming giving me a sense of an extendedbpractice. Thank you.

The bell always helps me focus, but I never thought of letting the sound go. At first it felt strange and it kept sounding in my head, but then I recognized it was gone and it felt sort of soft inside. The idea of being able to come back to the sound is sort of like the idea of coming back to the breath to re-center. Both are very helpful. So was the guide's voice- like a scaffolding for this exercise. I'll tinker with the "inside" bell at my next longer meditation. Thanks!

WOW! I have not meditated in years, and this brought it all back...wonderful practice, and well done! thanks you

Thank you

i did not try this meditation yet but i had a profound experience with Tibetan Bells in Coba.

we were sitting on top of the pyramid in a little room, trying to heal a woman with cancer.
we sat there, i don't know how long.
when i came out, i saw only the treetops from the top of the pyramid, but i heard what i described as the "music of the spheres".

up until that point, i was uncomfortable to down the pyramid and would go backwards, holding on to the rope.
But this time, i literally "flew" down, face forward.
i arrived at the bottom safely.
i don't know what happened to me, but after that point, i was no longer afraid to go down the pyramids with the face forward. i had discovered this "fear" while on a skilift gondola going down the mountain during the summer in Vermontt. In the winter, on skis, i schussed down the mountain without any frear.

The bell is great to focus on since it has so many things about it which can hold my attention. I always find guided meditations easier than when I try to meditate on my own, especially if I'm out of practice, as I am now. I have ADHD and so it is presumably harder for me to meditate and also of greater benefit as well. Focusing on something is much easier than trying to focus on nothing or on my breathing, as when I try not to do anything different with my breathing I have too many thoughts about it since I am a singer and have studied breathing for many years for that purpose. I think I also find focusing on a sound easier for meditation than looking at something like a flame or orange.

When you are looking for definitely efficient self value actions, binaural surpasses relaxation is going to provide you the most battling outcomes and the soonest. Nevertheless these are usually done while the mind is in the high consistency variety of try out. Any form of actions to boost self-worth have to include rebuilding the unconscious and relaxation is the easiest method to do that. Many college students of relaxation work for several years to arrive at the Theta condition effectively and consistently. Beta is the condition of mind that we are usually in when completely aware, aware, and involved in problem-solving actions.

Bell sound was a terrific way to get centered. I may try to make my own tape with the bell sound. I really liked the tone of that bell. I am a long time meditator.

Very calming!I used Aum with the ringing of the bell and the vibration of mmmmmm of Aum kept me focused on the vibration of the bell for a long time and I was able to stay meditative with minimal destraction. I am very grateful to you for sharing this and I will in turn share with all my friends and family.

Very helpful too for meditation.

Love the bell but had trouble getting "outside of myself" for awhile then realized it would have been better had I not read the 3 critique questions before hand because guess what...finally quieted down and found some peace and mindfulness. Sweet!

the sound of the bell brought my attention to a "centering" place within my head. It then moved to my heart chakra. As I was listening to the sound, my thoughts disapated. Repeating the memory of the bell also did the same things as listening to the bell the first time. Often times the voice of the guide was interrupting and I had to wait till I could then focus back on the sound of the bells. I have done this kind of meditation before and find it very relaxing.

Having done the exercise once or twice, where can I get the bell sound without the guide's words? I found the exercise fruitful, but the words were eventually very distracting (even aggravating), and the background noises also. Where can I can just the bell sound?

A great focal point to calm the mind. Resonated with me (oops!) as a musician but without the burden of text or harmony. I was able to move from the tone to a quieter place. I do wish that I had not known it was something to reflect upon in this context as I felt a bit distracted by standing outside myself to observe what was happening. I will do it again.

The first bell gave me a sensation in my chin that matched my heart beat. Then my body filled with a higher vibration. And then I was 'aware of awareness'. The second bell deeped my 'awareness of aware'.
Thank you for this experience!.

I found that when I really listened to the sound of the bell, I could feel the sound of the bell. I will try remembering the sound of the bell when I start feel overwhelmed with "stuff."

Couldn't download. Any suggestions? Thanks.

the bell sound meditation helped to settle my mind prior to shamatha practice. Thank you.

I love the sound of the bell. The instructions at the beginning were sufficient for me and when the voice began to talk after hearing the bell, I became distracted by it. I would have liked to have had no voice.......however, I did appreciate the voice in the beginning....peace, love, light

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