I love the sound of crickets and cicadas. I sometimes sit outside and just listen, in the morning and the heat of day to hear the cicadas or in the evening to hear the crickets. For some reason, it’s reassuring and comforting. The sound begins with the warmth of summer and ends when it gets cold, so it’s a message that summer is here. And crickets become silent when anyone or anything big gets near, so their voice can be one of safety.
When I was working as a teacher, and the end of vacation grew near, I especially took note of the sound. If I had any regrets about not spending enough time outdoors or having enough fun or not doing enough to help others or to find moments of calm in my own heart— the crickets reminded me of what had been there for me all along. As my schedule sped up to the fall, and vacation time transformed into work time, the crickets reminded me that the essence of life was individual moments. It reminded me to take a few moments to just listen and focus on what was here right now.
Listening to the crickets can be a mindfulness practice. Instead of focusing on the breath, you can let your mind settle on the crickets. When you do so, their voice grows clearer and purer. You hear a concert of millions of tiny wings rubbing together to produce a sound that might calm and help clear your mind. Or if it’s morning, you could focus on the cicadas.
So, simply sit outdoors on the grass or in a chair⎼ or indoors, near an open window. Let your hands rest on your lap, your eyes be partly or fully closed, or open and resting on something comforting⎼ and sit with the sound. Let your mind be simply an ear to the world. Just breathe in and enjoy a concert of crickets or cicadas as you inhale⎼ and settle into the moment as you exhale.
If anything pops into your mind that distracts you⎼ a car horn, memory, thought, sensation, just gently notice it as you inhale. And as you exhale, let your attention return to your chosen point of focus. Distractions, thoughts, feelings are natural to the flow of mind, like the wind coming and going. If you can simply, kindly notice what arises, your mind becomes simply, kindly noticing. If you berate yourself for the loss of attention, your mind becomes berating.
You might notice if there is a pause in your mental speech or images, or if the volume of sound changes, or if there are bird or other calls mixed in. Or is there is a gap in the speech of the crickets, a silence between the sounds?
If you’d prefer a different point of focus, or you’re in an urban environment⎼ or if noticing the sound of crickets is too difficult to do right now⎼ switch the point of focus. Listen to the wind or rain. Or, if it’s not annoying, the sounds of traffic, or feeling your hands on your lap, the air moving in and out your nose, or rest your eyes on an image of your favorite tree. Or pick a piece of music to listen to that you find beautiful but has few memories attached, or a recording of natural sounds.
There is no one right method of practice. What you pay attention to has its own individual meaning to you; it affects the rhythm of your heartbeat and the expanse and quality of your mind. So learning mindfulness includes discovering a practice that fits you in the moment and helps you be present in your life.
By giving whatever point of focus you have chosen such attention, it becomes valued by you. Deep attention and life itself are valued, enjoyed, even loved. You are valued and loved.
When events are unsettling and it seems the world or time itself is tipping rapidly to the future⎼ when you have to carefully plan how to get enough food, or you worry about your children, or feel anxious about the election in November⎼ you can remember you share these concerns with millions. What affects you can affect others.
You can remember to bring your mind back to the point of focus that feels right to you⎼ the sound of crickets, the feel of your feet on the floor or the air on your face. This returns your life to you. It can save you from repeating thoughts and show you that you are deeper than you ever imagined. You have the strength to take action to make the world a better place.