Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I don't have an ipod, how can I listen to the programs?
- A: You don't need any specific listening device. Any mp3 players is just as effective. If you have a CD burner on your computer, you can create a CD and listen to SoundMind on your favorite player. CD burning instructions are provided in your download package, and you can use can use iTunes, Windows Media Player, or any of the other popular media players to burn CDs from the mp3 files. If none of the above options work for you, contact us and we will try to come with a satisfactory alternative.
Q: Do I need stereo headphones, or can I use regular speakers?
- A: You MUST USE HEADPHONES while listening to soundmind meditation. The audio technology is not nearly as effective without stereo separation. The program can be listened to on a regular stereo with regular speakers, but you will only benefit from the instructions, and will not feel the calming meditative benefits of the binaural audio technology. So if you don't have headphones, we highly recommend that you procure a set of good headphones. All headphones sold on the market are stereo headphones, with only a few rare exceptions.
Q: What if I have a slow internet connection?
- A: You don't need a fast internet connection. A fast connection simply reduces the time it takes to download the programs from our server. If you want to download the programs from another computer with a faster connection, you can then burn them onto a data DVD, flash drive, CD, or put them directly onto your iPod or an external hard drive to take back to your computer. If you are having trouble, contact us: we have yet to encounter a download problem that couldn't be remedied.
Q: Is SoundMind Meditation religious?
- A: No. The techniques taught are similar to a Buddhist technique called Vipassana - a word that means insight, or to see inside yourself in a very special way. This technique is experiential, in other words, the benefits you get from practicing are your own real, personal experience, with no faith involved whatsoever. Many religions have wonderful bits of wisdom to help you live a wholesome and moral life, but meditation is different because it will help you experience something that will change you from the inside, immediately. (back to top)
Q: Is your program Vipassana?
- A: Yes and No. While it is very similar to Vipassana, it is our own interpretation of this technique. Also, because we implement binaural audio technology to help the meditation student learn, it is not strictly Vipassana as taught in its original form (no iPods at the time of the Buddha!). However, once you complete the course and are sitting on your own, without the binaural audio assist, you will be practicing an insight technique that is, for all intents and purposes, Vipassana meditation. (back to top)
Q: Is there chanting or Mantra involved in your technique?
- A: No. We don't introduce anything that isn't natural and observable. Our concept is to learn to observe "what is" with complete objectivity. A mantra is an effective way to concentrate the mind, but because it is not something naturally intrinsic to you, it is not linked to your subconscious mind in the same way. On the other hand, your breath and your body sensations are natural and are directly linked to your mind, and this is precisely why we observe them. To observe the effect of the mind (your breath and sensations) with complete focus and objectivity is to observe the source of the mind - your subconscious. So a mantra will not allow you this same observation and understanding your own inner nature. (back to top)
Q: How do I observe unpleasant sensations without reacting to them?
- A: Good question. By practicing Inner Body, you will be developing a new faculty of awareness called equanimity. Equanimity is a peace of mind and abiding calmness that cannot be shaken by any degree of unfortunate circumstance. When unpleasant sensations arise during your meditations, you will feel immediate aversion to those sensations - that is, you will want them to go away. As you progress, however you will learn to separate sensation from reaction. Sensation itself is objective and is neither good nor bad. It is our mind that determines the "goodness" or "badness" of a physical sensation, then reacts accordingly.
By practicing Inner Body, you learn to observe all sensations with objectivity. Eventually you will even begin to enjoy your unpleasant sensations because you will view them as an opportunity to "burn off" your conditioning and free your mind of those subconscious reactions. Rather than being uncomfortable, you will see them for what they are: objective experience that is free from suffering - literally just "stuff happening on the body."
The benefit of such a realization is a much higher pain tolerance, and a lessening of the emotional reactivity to unpleasant sensations or undesirable situations in your life. You very literally come out of your suffering, and learn to experience equanimity, by learning this technique. (back to top)
Q: Can you define Equanimity? (back to top)
- A: Equanimity is a fundamental skill for self-exploration and emotional intelligence. It should not be confused with suppression of feeling, apathy or inexpressiveness. Equanimity comes from the Latin word aequus, meaning balanced, and animus, meaning spirit or internal state. To begin understanding this concept, consider for a moment its opposite: what happens when a person loses internal balance? In a physical sense, we say a person has lost physical balance if they fall to one side or another. In the same way a person loses their mental balance if they fall into one of these two contrasting reactions:
Suppression: A state of thought/feeling arises and we attempt to cope with it by stuffing it down, denying it, tightening around it, etc.
Identification: A state of thought/feeling arises and we fixate on it, holding onto it obsessively, instead of letting it arise momentarily, then pass away within a natural rhythm.
With SoundMind Meditation, you will find that between suppression and identification lies a third possibility: the balanced state of non-self-interference... equanimity.
Q: Will I experience bliss?
- A: Yes. And you will also experience discomfort - every meditation experience will allow you to explore different aspects of your reactive mind. By understanding that everything is impermanent, you will learn to maintain your equanimity during blissful experiences and actually enjoy them much more. This is because you can be fully present with these experiences and not worry about them going away. In other words, maintaining your balanced mind - your equanimity - is as crucial to your experience of bliss as it is to less pleasant sensations. (back to top)
Q: Why do we observe our breathing?
- A: All many meditation techniques use one object or another to focus and quiet the mind. Because the mind can never be totally free from objectivity, it is necessary to give our attention an object to focus on. These objects of meditation give us the ability to become liberated from the mind's incessant stream of extraneous thinking. Some techniques use a word or phrase - a mantra - to quiet the mind. Other techniques use visualization of a form, such as a god or goddess in whom the meditator has devotion.
The breath, however has a unique quality. It is a natural process that happens continually and automatically and so the meditator does not have to do anything that is external to "what is". The breath is also connected to the deeper parts of the mind, which is why we breathe faster and deepr when we are angry or passionate and more slowly and subtly when we are calm and peaceful.
But we also can control our breath voluntarily. We can even stop breathing altogether - but only for so long: our mind will eventually kick in and force us to continue breathing unconsciously. This quality of the breath being both a conscious and unconscious bodily function makes it unique. So by observing our natural flow of breath, we are focusing on a bridge which connects our conscious and subconscious minds.
Another quality of the breath which makes it an ideal object of meditation is that it is always happening in the present moment. By remaining with your breath, you are remaining in the present moment, permanently. When your mind wanders, you are usually lost in a memory (past), problem solving (hypothetical present), or anticipating, worrying and projecting yourself into tomorrow, next month or year (future). So thinking is by definition NOT in the present moment. This is why the breath is an ideal object of our attention. It is happening right now. Always and forever. Mantras and visualizations are externalizations that do not take you into the eternal NOW.
Finally, the breath is universal. It is not associated with any kind of dogma or religion. There is no difference between a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist breath. Thus, this universal nature of the breath makes it an ideal meditation object: it is accessible to everyone, at every moment. (back to top)
Q: Why do we observe sensations during meditation?
- A: In the same way that breath is a universal object - free from dogma, always happening in the present moment - so are the sensations that we feel on the body. So once we have achieved, through breath awareness, an awareness centered squarely in the present moment, we then use that ability to concentrate on our bodily sensations and "feel" the present moment on our body.
We do this because everything that happens in our life is some sort of sensation. All of our sense doors (sight, smell, sound, touch, taste and thought) produce sensations on our body in some form. SoundMind's Level Two, Inner Body technique teaches us not to react to these sensations with craving or aversion, but simply to be aware of them with a calm peaceful objectivity or equanimity. For more on why we observe our sensations, please click here for an in-depth explanation of the Inner Body technique. (back to top)
Q: How long does this course take?
- A: That depends on your effort. If you sit every day, you will get through the material much faster. With that kind of dedication, you should spend about a month on each level of the course. What's important to remember is that it doesn't matter how long you take, as long as you feel you are understanding the meditation technique as you progress. You will come to understand, too, that becoming a meditator and this is a life-long journey. (back to top)
Q: Why must I meditate every day?
- A: Practice makes perfect. There are no exceptions to that rule, certainly not with meditation. Sitting on a regular basis will enable its benefits to become an active part of your life. If you practice in the morning, you will notice that your mindset throughout the day is clear, focused, and positive. You won't react as intensely to things and be much more easy-going about the issues in your life. This observable difference will be a positive reinforcement and incentive for meditating regularly. No question about it: every meditator who practices daily will see positive results in their life. (back to top)
Q: Can I sit for longer than an hour?
- A: Absolutely! You can sit for as long as you like. The more you sit, the quicker you will see results. Consistency of your practice is the key. The longer you can sit with unbroken awareness, the more thoroughly you will master this technique. (back to top)
Q: Will I become apathetic and boring if I meditate? I don't want to lose my personality! (back to top)
- A: This is one of the most common misconceptions when people first start learning about meditation. The reality is quite different. By quieting your mental chatter and learning to observe with equanimity, you will more fully appreciate every present moment for what it is. This will add a profound sense of joy and satisfaction to your life unlike anything you have ever experienced.
Just imagine standing in line at the grocery store. Instead of feeling impatient and unsatisfied with the present (wanting the queue to move more quickly), you will automatically, without even realizing it, become aware of your breath and begin to tune into your body sensations. Even in the checkout line or sitting in traffic, you will be able to access a peaceful sense of joy in accepting things as they are and in living your life in the eternal "now." This is the art of living.
Acceptance of things as they are is the opposite of apathy. Apathy is a depressed state of mind whereby one feels a sense of despair and hopeless indifference to things. It is the suppression of emotions such as concern, excitement, motivation and passion. Equanimity, on the other hand, is a deep sense of peace and clarity and acceptance of things as they are. It is the first step to a proactive life: the ability to take appropriate action to improve our situation without losing our cool. Who is more magnetic, or better known for a pleasing personality, than someone who can be happy and inspiring in the face of life's ups and downs?
Q: I've tried meditation and my mind is too restless, why will soundmind be any different for me?
- This is a very common misunderstanding among beginning meditators. The fact is that EVERYONE has a restless mind. Like everyone else, your initial efforts at meditation will be uneven and subject to distraction. But instead of seeing this as a reason to give up, you should see it as precisely why you should continue to practice.
You don't need a quiet mind first in order to practice your meditation - you need to meditate to quiet your mind. That restless mind is the very reason you are practicing meditation. Remember, the key word here is practice. Like any other skill, meditation improves with effort and time.
Remember, too, that SoundMind offers you the unique advantage of combining easy-to-follow instruction with the binaural audio technology highly conducive to achieving a trance-like state of meditation. Our meditation guidance is refreshingly easy to practice with the audio technology embedded into the programs. (back to top)