Category Archives: Dharana

Zazen and earworms



Image courtesy of Happyzine

I practice the Zen technique of zazen – wholehearted, just sitting meditation with no mantras or other focus than watching the thoughts come and go. Just observing the thoughts as an outsider might, without getting caught up in the content, is not as easy as it sounds. Zen teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn says on one of his CDs (great for beginners to the technique) that it can help to think of it as sitting on the bank of a river, watching the stream of thoughts pass by. If you get pulled into the water, as we all do from time to time, notice this and then get out and sit on the bank again. Another way you can think of it is by imagining you are lying looking up at the sky watching the clouds (your thoughts) blow past. Watch them come, and watch them go.

A recurring problem for me during meditation is earworms. I find I can watch the thoughts come and go, but songs keep popping up in my head and it’s really hard to let them go, that catchy tune, those repetitive rhythms. This is not just a problem during zazen, but much of the time. I can wake up in the morning singing Lou Reed or the Venga Boys for no discernible reason. Perhaps my finding the earworms irritating at all is what I should be noticing, rather than wishing they would go away so I can get on with the business of meditating. Perhaps they will go away on their own, eventually.