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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The (Zen) Gong Show

So in my last post I mentioned a poet who adopted the technique usually used to begin meditation pracice in order to start her writing practice: the sound of a gong. Her gong was online, but I had misplaced the link to it so I could not share it with you at that time.

It turns out that merely Googling "online meditation timer" brings up a plethora of programs that will sound a gong or bell at the beginning of a quiet period (or period accompanied by music if you so choose) and that will signal the end of the period (the length of which you can set yourself) to let you know it's over. No more peeking at the clock when you are supposed to be writing (or meditating.) And maybe the sound will become an effective trigger that encourages you to leave your ordinary consciousness and enter your writing (or meditating) mind. Or exit it, if that's the key.

One of the websites that came up in my search is the original one in the article I read. Here it is as offered by Treeleaf Zendo. This site has Japanese-y graphics, and the meditation begins with the sound of a woodblock first (actually it sounds more like something bouncing; if you know what it is, please comment), prior to the gong, a feature which I particularly like, since it gives me even more time to prepare to begin, and we all know how I like to put off writing. You can also choose a sutra or silence during the time period you select, and you can download an mp3 of your choices.

If you don't need the bouncy-woodblock sound first, try this meditation timer offered by Insight Meditation Center. This one has the visual of a statue of Buddha, plus a version of the timer downloadable to your computer. Otherwise just click on the blue arrow to the right of the length of time you choose in order to listen online.

By the way, I should mention that what I have been calling gongs are really bowls that are hit by small mallets made for the purpose.

If you wish to avoid the gong-bowl thing altogether and use a bell tone instead, then perhaps the timer at Washington Mindfulness Community is for you. There's a choice of small bells and big bells, and you can even put a randomizer on the tones so that the rings come at unknown intervals, if that's your thing. (By the way, when testing the bells, hit the test buttons three or four times to get a complete idea of the range of vibrations available.)

Finally, I found a site that offers a long list of possible tones to begin your practice. Among the 15 different sounds offered by Your Meditation Timer are a ship's bell, actual gongs, pianos, and goblets. This program allows you to make mp3's as well.

If none of these suits you, try Googling the subject yourself. There are far more options out there than I can mention here!

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