I live in an urban area, inside an old mill building, without sound insulation. So, often, I use headphones to block out the noise from outside and inside the building. Lately, I have been listening to long tracks of random nature scenes and have come to appreciate the small and subtle within them. I am learning that little sounds, presented just as they are in nature, are a powerful way to ground in meditation, bringing my attention back to the present as they periodically appear in their own, beautiful time. It is similar to what I learned by looking at tiny things during my daily nature mandala practice. This time, it is not seeing, but listening to small things. (Read about what I learned with nature mandalas in The Beauty of Small Things.)
I think it started a couple months ago when I traveled to Virginia in early November to catch some color in the mountains. I walked one particular trail on different days to try to forge a relationship with place. There I heard tiny sounds behind me that threw me back to my childhood and connected me to both places. It was the little clicking sounds that juncos make as they travel and scratch about in their little groups. They are such tiny, gentle noises, but they made me melt, pay attention, become present, and build relationship.
Right now, I am working on a new mandala workshop that contemplates the AIR element and I found a few great nature tracks with beautiful wind / air and the sounds it carries. Listen to the links below if you like, or just go outside to a "quiet" area and listen!
Please note that it is a world of difference when you use headphones!