The habit of employing sounds to help you reach deep meditative states is as old as meditation itself. Any practice that uses our sensorial information to anchor our awareness works very well to keep our mind focused and our thoughts minimal. For instance, you can focus you attention on your breath, and by repeatedly feeling the subtle sensations of the air passing through your nostrils and your respiratory channel, you can keep your mind from wandering away.
Another trick to effectively enhance concentration and awareness is through sound. By listening actively and attentively you can also prevent your mind from returning to its usual state of constant traffic. Some sounds work better than others, though. While a nice song or relaxing music can keep you attentive for a while, once it becomes too familiar you inevitably return to the stream of never-ending thoughts, which keeps you from reaching deep levels of calmness.
Here is where natural sounds can be employed as a very valuable aid in your meditation sessions. All sounds of nature, whether you take the sound of flowing water, the constant swaying of waves at the beach, the plethora of birds and insects from a tropical forest, or the ordered chaos of raindrops falling, all these sounds have two major factors in common: they have a flowing nature, which is very pleasing to the ear, yet at the same time are totally random in their nuances.
Why the first factor may be appropriate for a meditation environment is quite clear: you need a reliable source of sound that remains fairly constant in both time and frequency domains. A “blanket” of sound that allows you to relax without you tending to judge the quality of the composition, the chosen instrumentation or the voice of the singer. A steady flow of sound that allows for no interruption and no sudden distractions.
But even more importantly, the randomness within the fabric of these sounds plays a crucial role in our ability to retain our concentration and awareness. By actively listening to every detail and nuance in the recording, whether it is a new insect in the background that you didn’t hear before, or the way the water splashes differently every single time, you can train yourself to remain highly concentrated on the sound, and thus away from distracting thoughts, for very large periods of time. This is because you cannot anticipate what exactly is going to happen next in the recording. As you listen actively you remain “on the edge of your seat”. You develop the ability to dwell on a state of constant surprise, on a state of deep concentration, like the cat that is waiting for the mouse to come out of his hideout, never loosing focus.
I recommend the audio resources provided by a new website called TranscendentalTones (http://transcendentaltones.com). They offer an extensive sound library of very special natural recordings and allow you to sample every single recording with their built-in stream player. The quality of the sounds is impeccable, the repertory vast, and most importantly, the downloadable tracks are lengthy, what allows for a long, uninterrupted meditation session.