OM: Sound of Spirit OR of Tinnitus?

Tibetan Buddhist Aum CC BY-SA 3.0
Tibetan Buddhist Aum
CC BY-SA 3.0
Tamil OM, public domain
Tamil OM, public domain
Om, in Siddham script, Public Domain
Om, in Siddham script, Public Domain

 

 

 

 

 

In the Yoga Sutra’s of Patajali, Aum (OM) is spoken of as the symbol of Ishwara or God[1A]. Chanting, meditating, and listening to OM is considered contact with God by billions of followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and New Spiritualities. The Amen of the Christians and Amin of the Muslims are said to share the same word origins as Aum (OM).

In my previous post, The Sound of OM, a reader suggested that the OM sound meditators claimed to be experiencing during yoga meditation might actually be “tinnitus”— a medical condition of “hearing” imaginary noises.

Over the last week I searched for more opinions of the sound of OM.

Seemingly contrary to the tinnitus explanations, yogis (practitioners of Yoga) speculate that these sounds may be heard through intuitive perception of atoms rumbling in the Cosmos or the hearing of chakras in the astral spine.

Interestingly, the descriptions of these sounds between both groups — physicians and yogis — are similar. Listen to a simulation of tinnitus sounds (below) by American Tinnitus Association. And compare physicians explanations in the next paragraph, to how a famous Yogi explains the sounds of OM.

 Yogic Explanation of OM (Aum) Sound

The OM sound emanates from the chakras of the deeply meditating yogi, says famous Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. These chakras or six spinal centers are said to be located in the medulla oblongata, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal region of the astral spine spoken of in some Modern Yoga treatises. Apparently, each chakra emits a particular sound that may be heard by the deeply meditating yogi. “When the eyes become calm and quiet, you should be able to see a light, but it is more important that you hear the astral sounds of the cerebrospinal centers, or the Om sound. First you may hear the buzzing of a bee, then a flute, then a harp seemingly playing beautifully far off in the distance. This is the harp of heavenly astral music. Then you may hear a sound as of a huge gong-bell; and finally will follow the great rolling sound of Om like a bursting sea–like the sound of many waters[2]”, wrote Paramahansa Yogananda in his Lesson for teaching his OM Technique of Meditation.

Sometimes Yogi’s claim to hear wonderful sounds. But, there is similarity between yogic explanations of the “quality” of sounds which overlaps with medical descriptions of imaginary sounds from tinnitus. As I have illustrated here:om-and-tinnitus

 

 

Tinnitus vs Om: Medical Explanation of Phantom Sounds

Alternatively, we can find that the OM and the yogic chakra sounds have a medical explanation. Tinnitus is a medical condition of hearing phantom noises in your ears. According to American Tinnitus Association, 1-in-5 people have tinnitus and experience noises to various degrees of intensity, volume, pulse, and tone. Yogi’s descriptions of the OM and the chakra sounds are very similar to the imaginary noises heard by persons with tinnitus. Hearing imaginary buzzing, hissing, roaring, ocean noises, and even music in your ears are all the symptoms of tinnitus as described by medical doctors[3]. Someone with tinnitus, say physicians, has his or her own individualized sound fingerprints which varies from person-to-person. Ironically, the phantom noises caused by tinnitus resemble sounds yogis claim to come from the OM or to emanate from the chakras or six spinal centers.

Listen to a simulation of Tinnitus sounds by the American Tinnitus Association and Tinnitus Sound Samples from the British Tinnitus Association.

Science has yet to find evidence of chakras or of astral spinal centers in the human body. Yoga theories and doctrines — from ancient Vedas, Upanishads, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and Modern Yoga texts — each have different, if not contradictory, descriptions of the yoga chakras. So we find little consensus, or no unified theory, of chakras among the yogic literature. I’m not saying chakras or the OM sound definitely don’t exist. No one knows for sure. For the present, let’s leave our chakra discussion for a future post. The chakras are important only in our above discussion to compare the sounds of OM, explained by meditating yogis, to the symptoms of tinnitus, explained by physicians.

Questions for readers: Do you experience any of these sounds? What do you think causes these sounds: Spirit or Tinnitus?

Notes

1A  God Talks With Arjuna — The Bhagavad Gita: Royal Science of God-Realization, p 615. Self-Realization Fellowship.

1 Mayo Clinic. Tinnitus Symptoms. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/basics/symptoms/con-20021487

2 Yogananda, P. SRF Lesson 30, Purpose of Hearing the OM Sound. Self-Realization Fellowship.

3 American Tinnitus Association, Sounds of Tinnitus. http://www.ata.org/sounds-of-tinnitus

Creator of Skeptic Meditations
45 comments
  1. hi Scott, quick question: are you uncertain about whether the sounds you heard are tinnitus? And if so, why?
    I never heard any sounds when I meditated, and I did it for over 10 years. Before that, I used to listen to music through headphones set to the loudest volumes for about 3 years. I went partially deaf but never heard any sounds, except a very Very occasional ringing sound that came and went roughly around 10 seconds.

    I think there could be other reasons for these sounds that have more to do with sleep paralysis or a state in meditation that is similar to that.

    Another alternative explanation could be that kundalini, chakras and other energetic experiences are actually spirits that try to possess people. The Christian charismatics and the Hindus in Yoga both experience so called “kundalini” symptoms of shaking, tremors, jerking, spasmodic movements, mudras, and even strange vocal utterances characteristic of mediums in trance states channelling spirits. For more information on this you could look up Dave Hunt on yoga and the occult. I don’t subscribe to Hunt’s Christian perspective, especially the idea that God would send people to everlasting hell, but he does talk a fair amount of sense otherwise.

    Swami Vivekananda related that his guru Sri Ramakrishna once said that the kundalini and associated subtle body phenomena were “created” by the practice of Yoga and otherwise don’t exist. I think that should tell us something important. What I have ever known is that I have a mind, awareness, consciousness, what have you – and then a physical body, and there is nothing in between like a subtle body. Not to mention that when people have Out Of Body Experiences or others supposedly clairvoyantly see spirits or ghosts, the subtle body does not show any chakras coming from it.

  2. @ David: I’m exploring possible explanations for what the OM noises or yogic meditation sounds might be, including –

    Medical-Natural explanations
    1) Tinnitus- The Sounds I’ve heard in meditation could be tinnitus. Regarding, my personal experience of the tinnitus sounds, I’ve not had any diagnoses of tinnitus nor had any hearing problems. But I won’t rule tinnitus out as possibilities.
    The physical or psychological effects of these sounds can have a psychological or emotional effect, especially when the meditator holds “occult” beliefs or biases.

    2) Psychological-Physical States- We’ve probably all heard strange sounds while our head’s been immersed under water, or when we were extremely tired/sleep deprived, or were otherwise coming into or out of our usual state of consciousness. So far, I don’t find any reason to believe the “imaginary” but heard sounds are from some occultic-spiritual world. Yet, I’m interested to learn of similarities or differences between “altered” states and yoga-induced meditative states.

    Spiritual or occult explanations
    3) Kundalini, chakras, and the OM sound- These are highly speculative concepts. There is little agreement among the occult literature, yoga experts, and meditation practitioners about the qualities of these “mythical” energies or powers within the human body. I don’t rule out the possibility these exist. But, the more I investigate (without bias towards finding occult energies and spiritual answers) the more I’m skeptical of Kundalini, or mystical “serpent power”, sleeping or awakened in the adept meditator’s astral spine. I’ve been researching the origins of Modern Yoga and made some provocative discoveries. Stay tuned to future posts.

    4) Subtle “energy” body– I’ve practiced Kriya Yoga, as taught by SRF/Paramahansa Yogananda, for decades– and still practice that technique periodically. According to Yogananda’s teachings of the Kriya technique (see SRF Kriya Lessons), during one practice of one Kriya breath the yogi-meditator is instructed to notice in their throat their cool and/or warm sensation of inhaling/exhaling breath and then to VISUALIZE these cool/warm sensations going up and down their spine. This mental exercise, this visualization, seems exactly the same as using imagination to feel spinal currents. I admit to feeling sensations in my spine sometimes during Kriya Yoga practice. However, we don’t need to meditate to feel “shivers” in our spine or get “goosebumps” on the back of our neck. Are these imaginations or visualizations of sensations in our spines or of hearing imaginary sounds signs of hidden “occult” or supernatural realities?

    I’m skeptical these experiences point to evidence of anyone’s theories of higher powers or cosmic energies in our bodies.(Power of imagination, definitely!). I could be wrong, but willing to correct if I found out I was in error.

    What do you think?

  3. Oh man, is it bad that I found the voice of that guy in the tinnitus sample hilarious?

    I would have to say the sounds heard are either tinnitus or imaginary.

    I have a mild case of tinnitus from time to time. Never mistook that for anything supernatural though.

  4. Supernatural explanations just make me chuckle — though I sort of believed in them myself. But then, I am OK with chuckling at my self — both past, present and future. 🙂

    Here is another tinnitus sound source:
    http://www.hearing.nihr.ac.uk/public/auditory-examples-sounds-of-tinnitus

    Remember, the brain can take the same signal and turn it into various perceptions. Sound can become light, touch can become visions.

    You’ve heard of synesthesia, no?

    The brain can turn its own background activity signals into lights, sounds, smells or feelings …

    Quiet mediation allows awareness to focus on the fuzzy unconscious activities of the brain and depending on the individual, this may be interpreted as sound or light or feeling or smell…… But they are cell activity — doing what they always do. It is not being in touch with some divine realm.

    Tinnitus is a word for a pathological sound version of this same phenomena. But there is non-pathological tinnitus (“physiological tinnitus”) and one person’s experienced “pathology” is non-pathological for another at times. Remember, even “tinnitus” and “pathological” are just words we made as we wrestle with labeling subjective experiences.

  5. You might want to contact Anil Nerode about the so called subtle body experiences, light and sound in meditation etc. If you don’t know already, he is a somewhat famous mathematician who’s father was a partner of Yogananda’s in the 1930s. He learnt Kriya from Yogananda at a very young age (indeed, Yogananda gave him his name, Anil) and he is of the opinion that the sights and sounds are pure physiological responses to the meditation exercises. He told me that if you hit your head while falling on ice the ringing sound in the ears actually corresponds to the golden mean, some kind of mathematical “vibration”.

    By the way, his Father, Sri Nerode, broke away from Yogananda because he said the latter was sleeping with women.

    It sounds to me that he isn’t 100% certain about the causes of these experiences because he said “who knows?” Even his wife had an NDE and OBE in surgery where she separated from her body and was watching the surgeons from above.

    I suppose it is tempting for people to assign personal experiences to some kind of encounter with God. But it seems Yogananda himself was uncertain. In the Autobiography of a Yogi when his guru touches him and he has a mystical experience of cosmic consciousness and afterwards comes out of it he still asks about God existing. My personal view is that there are strange experiences people can have that might not have a scientific explanation but I doubt very VERY much that anybody “knows” God.

    It would be nice to have solid scientific explanations for everything but I doubt that is even possible or worth pursuing in the end.

  6. @ David R ,
    Cool comment – but I was sorry to see your name is not linked to a blog.

    @ Scott,
    BTW, another idea for a post: “The Differences between Ishwara and Yahweh: Different versions of the Hindu God”

  7. Hi Sabio, thanks. But I’m sure if I made a blog I would spend less time on other important things in the outside world. I used to moderate chats online and got sick of it.

    You think Yahweh is a Hindu god? That’s the first I’ve ever heard of that. 🙂

  8. @ David R,
    Yeah, well, just like Christianity, HInduism has tons of variety of sub-faiths and Scott’s version probably views Ishwara differently than other Hindu sects. But it would be fun to hear a comparison. For certainly, translating both Yahweh and Ishwara as “God” is misleading. But the move to make Hinduism more Christian is another story.

  9. @T.S. Haha. Yeah, some demonstrations (especially by scientist-nerds) can come across as a little corny. I thought it was useful to have an audio demo versus just a description of some of the tinnitus noises.

    How would you describe the tinnitus noises that you experience? Were you formally diagnosed with tinnitus by a physician?

    Thanks for your comments

  10. @Sabio: The “supernatural” is most likely the natural that has yet to be logically explained or understood. Some experiences we may never fully understand. Take the experience of love, for example. I too no longer buy supernatural “explanations” because they really don’t explain anything. They require leaps of faith, suspensions of logic, and grasps at magic.

    I listened to the tinnitus sounds you provided in the link. Thanks for sharing that.

    Synesthesia: I’ll look into synesthesia. Maybe it can help explain some of the unusual meditation experiences that yogi’s talk about.

    I agree. Ultimately, we only have words and language to communicate what we experience–or, what we imagine or think we actually perceive. I’ve heard some linguists go so far as to say if we didn’t have words we wouldn’t be capable of thoughts. Maybe the wordless experience too points to the “timeless”, “thoughtless” realms that yogi-meditator’s talk about?

    Thanks, as always for contributing, great points!

  11. @David: When I was ordained as a SRF monk, I heard of Sri Nerode as an early (1930s) leader with Yogananda establishing their Yogoda/SRF organization in USA. I did a google search and read up about him, after I got your comment. Actually, Sri Nerode’s claim seems to be Yogananda was conducting “bathing” rituals with young women who lived in his hermitage. Anil’s opinions of the sights and sounds of meditation are not very convincing for me. I don’t take subjective claims too seriously, although many people might when the claims come from people with titles of DR, physicist, or mathematician. Anil and his father definitely sound like fascinating personalities for sure! Thanks for pointing out this info.

    I agree with you– nobody knows for sure if “God” exists. Heck, which god – Ishvara, Yahweh, Zeus? That’s why I prefer to abstain from filling in the “blanks” with my biases, wishes,and dreams of magical astral realms, savior super-heros, and miraculous superpowers.

    To dismiss these as just stupid human biases, dumb ideas, or the silly people who harbor them, seems a big mistake. I’m learning much – about myself, human nature, the world – in these explorations and conversations we share. You ought to consider blogging and sharing your insights with others, as Sabio suggests.

    Thanks for contributing to the discussions.

  12. @Sabio & David: Haha. “My” version of god! Don’t we all have our “own” version, believer and non-believer concepts run amok. There’s so many versions of god, even limiting it to the classical lists, especially in Hinduism. But I like your suggestion of posting about- “The Differences between Ishwara and Yahweh: Different versions of the Hindu God”.

    While I was an ordained monk I did have certain versions of god that appealed to me during my meditations, prayers, and cries for help.

    Thanks guys for your suggestions and comments.

  13. My tinnitus is just a dull ringing that happens every few hours. I’ve never been diagnoses, I’m just assuming that what it is based on what I know of tinnitus.

  14. @T.S.: Glad to hear your “mild” tinnitus is not bothersome. I too think may have it mildly. I spent too much time standing in front of marshall stacks blaring rock music.

  15. Like the site!- On the current topic- I’ve experienced both noticeable and sometimes distressing ringing in my ears depending on what I was doing or trying to do. But I have a comment to add, not sure how I would frame it in this discussion but an article comes to mind (sorry no link) that talked about psychological illnesses across the world over and how the ‘voices’ that some schizophrenia patients hear can be generalized from studies as being more malicious in western patients and more benevolent in eastern patients. Anyone care to comment as they might relate this to the sounds of Om.

  16. @Tosh:

    OM Sounds/Tinnitus: What has your doc said about the “distressing ringing” in your ears? I get “audible” ringing in my ears when I stop to listen. Otherwise, it’s not usually disturbing for me. However, when I meditate practicing the OM Technique of meditation given to me by a spiritual teacher I hear very different sounds. I write about some here in my post The Sound of OM.

    Do the “sounds” change depending on your activity or if you are meditating?

    ‘Voices’: I too would be interested in the article or study you mention on ‘voices’. If a ‘voices’ article appears and is relevant to meditation, yogic experience, etc. I’d be interested in starting a separate blog post and discussion. Thanks for mentioning ‘voices’ as another idea.

    I really appreciate your comments. I use reader feedback to improve this site and to find out which topics might be good for future posts and discussions.

  17. Just because something has physical connections behind it, that does not necessitate that the spiritual connection is void.

  18. @Mark: I agree medical science’s finding of tinnitus doesn’t necessarily void the spiritual. (Whatever, you mean by “spiritual”–you did not define).

    When we discover “physical” explanations that are plausible and perhaps more likely an explanation than claiming the “supernatural”, should we not lower our confidence in saying the sounds are supernatural? What do you think?

  19. I can’t say whether I’ve experienced Om. I doubt that I have, though as I’ve commented before, I’ve heard other sounds. The tinnitus sounds displayed in the sample I think are just the emanations of nearby electronics, because I hear them all the time at home in the city, but the high-pitched ringing in my ear is absent when I’m out in the country.

    However… after relatively deep meditations undisturbed by thoughts, I will come out of meditation and hear a very low humming in my ears when I’m quiet and unmoving. Initially I thought it was a manifestation of tinnitus, but it only occurs after a particularly deep session of meditation, and gently wears off as the day progresses, until I meditate again in the evening. If I skip meditation sessions, or have a difficult time going deep, the sound doesn’t appear. So, in this way I can surmise that this low, dull “mmmmmmmmmm” sound is either strictly induced by meditation, or revealed by meditation through my enhanced perception and focused awareness. I don’t think it’s the “om” sound that ancient yogis describe, as they described the sound like rolling thunder, or rushing rivers, and it’s far too weak to be described like that. But many modern day yogis, particularly in the kriya paths, describe “om” similarly as a low humming after meditation. I find the sound interesting, but particularly useless as anything but a novelty of meditation, just another byproduct.

    I think the teachers of the different kriya paths, however much they try to downplay the “scenery” of meditation, are way to heavily invested in trying to get their followers to achieve these experiences. The lack of mind-maps in the kriya paths mean that followers end up spending way too much time trying to cultivate these experiences of meditation to accomplish aspects of meditative scenery, when they should be disregarding these completely in favor of more depth. Depth produces results, not the byproducts of meditation. The byproducts are a direct result of depth, and not the other way around. Not every person will even experience or perceive the experience of some of these aspects of meditative scenery, so it’s a fruitless use of time. I know this, because in kriya paths other than SRF, the mania to produce the om sound, the blue-pearled star, and hear the internal sounds is just as strong — I eventually left even these kriya paths, because in all my experience I’ve noted that depth produces true and lasting benefits, and rounds of kriya are like tilling the soil for meditation, but it is not at all planting the meditative seed or watering it to produce deep, meditative roots. Only traditional meditative tools can do that, in my humble experience, and therein lies the reason they’ve withstood the test of time.

  20. Thanks again, Mark, for engaging about so-called Om sounds. You dismiss the “tinnitus” sounds as nearby electronics? You don’t think the sounds meditators in the West hear today are the same caliber as ancient yogis? What if it’s the other way around? That, the sounds meditators hear in the inner ear, our imagination or head, of tinnitus, are the same sounds the ancient yogis interpreted as Om and their gods?

    I no longer feel the need to defend my fortress of “faith” in the Om, Gurus, or ancient yogic texts and tales–therefore I’m free find other explanations that seem more plausible and rational. I may be wrong and am willing to revise my opinions if I can find sufficient, coherent evidence.

  21. It’s certainly possible. If I can perceive the high pitched ringing with normal, everyday awareness, then perhaps the dull hum of what people say is “om” is just a form of lower frequency tinnitus that requires an enhanced perception to be able to hear. There is no way for me to disprove such a notion, nor the skill to be able to set up an experiment testing such a hypothesis.

    But then that would mean the ancient yogis would be quite awful at describing the sound we’re taking to be “om”, when they had perfectly good examples to use instead. The gentle hum of a single bee is more accurate than rolling thunder or the rush of many waters.

    It could also just mean that the humming sound many today are taking as the sound of “om”, particularly in the kriya circles, isn’t the om that the ancient yogis were referring to at all, and that their description is accurate, but people aren’t achieving the state necessary to experience it.

    Many ideas are plausible, but only one is probably correct.

  22. Hi Mark: I’ve heard the buzzing bee sound 100s of times in meditation. I’ve heard other sounds too, high pitched, low pitched roar, ocean, rumbles, etc. that Yogananda describes as astral emanations from the chakras or spiritual centers in the astral spine. My research, that I shared in my post “Om: Sound of Spirit OR of Tinnitus?” indicates that the hypothetical yogic Om sounds have a more plausible medical explanation, tinnitus.

    Its possible that all ideas or answers to this question are actually incorrect. The explanation for Om sounds that seems least plausible is the standard yogic answer that the sounds are a magical, supernatural sound of Atoms or Creation. I don’t buy the yogic answers. I’d rather say I don’t know and doubt the yogis as they’ve gotten so much incorrect about how the world and universe actually is.

  23. You all just don’t get it, even Scott, the one who was an SRF monk. If you all keep seeking you will finally understand. Just don’t stop at your doubts or get lost in your own thoughts or intellect as if you know. Because you don’t know. Instead of faith in the yogis and seers of the ages, you have faith in science and doctors. Some may call it something else, but it is “faith” just the same.

    Peace

  24. Thanks, Watcher, for taking the time to read and present your opinion.

    Based on your comments I’m guessing you are a Yogananda devotee or believer in the claims of yogis, saints, and gurus of whatever religion.

    You said “if you all keep seeking you will finally understand…”.

    I’m guessing you mean we should seek god or guru and we just don’t understand god’s mysterious ways. Which god/guru should we seek? There’s 1000’s, if not millions.

    I don’t claim to “know” absolutely anything. I am open to changing my mind and revising my position provided I can be persuaded with a reasonable argument or evidence. Faith is not open to revision or reason. Faith believes despite the evidence against wishful thinking.

    So-called Gurus and their followers have to claim that they have special, revealed, infallible “knowledge”. They claim to know how the world and universe actually is. But fail to provide any rational proof? Ah, yes, I remember from my monk days: “It’s in my heart and I just have to have faith”.

  25. This post striked me as a bit funny because I do have a mild tinnitus that I do hear if the surroundings are very silent. But back when I did meditate fairly often one of my main reasons for using a mantra or make some noise (usually just an M as it takes minimal effort) was partly to block out my tinnitus with some “real” noise. The whole point of meditation for me was about trying to reduce the noise in my mind both literally and figuratively. Btw “Om” never worked for me because in my native language it sort of means “if only…”.

  26. @Stofer: Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    That’s funny that Om means “if only…” in your language. I’m guessing your native language is Swedish?

    Did you have a medical doctor diagnose you with tinnitus? Which meditation techniques or guru do/did you practice?

    I have not and don’t know what the so-called Om or tinnitus sounds are that I hear with or without meditation or with ears closed. I suspect the “inner” sounds we may hear are natural physiology or neurology of our bodies or brains and not some higher power. If the sounds are special or divine, I’d be most glad instead of realizing I wasted years listening to these sounds in meditation.

  27. Yes, it’s swedish. I never had a guru or anything. I just had some family members talking about it and I read a little about it and sort of developed my own “home-made” meditation. Something pretty close to “mindfulness”. From what I’ve read here it seems I was perhaps better off not having a guru, but free to investigate meditation for myself. I think the only benefit I got from it was to sort of get comfortably familiar with and not so overwhelmed by my inner turmoil, other than that I don’t know.

    What makes this site so interesting for me is that I do have a background in leaving a more traditional cult/religion. But meditation is a completely secular thing to me that was part of my way out of religion. Yet it’s fascinating how this too me completely foreign religion is strangely similar in the way it holds it’s members hostage. How a completely different set of ideas can create the same old weird combination of self-hatred and delusions of grandeur as the religion of my youth.

  28. @Stofer: Someday I’d like to visit Sweden! Sounds like you invented for yourself a useful practice of “meditation”. All the better without an authority or any mental-manipulation of a guru.

    Do you have a website or blog? Would you be able to share, as you put it, your “background in leaving a traditional cult/religion”?

    Thanks for your comments and responses.

  29. Hi again. No I don’t have a blog or anything. I can say that it was mormonism I left behind, but it’s a long and complicated story behind how and why that happened. To put it briefly I was always sort of sceptical even from young childhood and the list of things to be sceptical about certainly kept on growing over the years. But looking back on it my attachment to the faith was amazingly resilient even though I came to reject so many fundamentals of it. Basically I stuck it out until one day I realized that it made no sense to stay in a faith that required me to believe in so many things I didn’t and couldn’t make myself believe. I got a kind of epiphany regarding my fear of upsetting god by my unbelief when it occurred to me that day that such a god is a monster. If I honestly cannot believe in old testament fairytales or “the holy ghost” or a bunch of other mormon concepts it’s curious indeed that the mormon god is basically resorting to intellectual dishonesty and emotional blackmail. That just cannot be the real God, or atleast not a god worthy of worship, and the whole house of cards just collapsed in the blink of an eye. What had been unthinkable moments before was now the only logical conclusion – mormonism was (and still is btw) false and abusive.

  30. Hi Stofer,
    Thanks for sharing this sketch of your background. What you describe about mormonism (the myths, intellectual dishonesty, and emotional/psychological blackmail) seems similar in its psychology to all religions, including the institutionalized contemplative or mystical traditions that include meditation methods.

    I assume that now you have jettisoned Mormonism and practices. What is for you now that fills the psychological space that Mormonism and its practices used to occupy? Are you religious or spiritual in some other way now?

  31. I have spent a lot of time with the SRF teachings, and though I’m not affiliated any notes I still meditate and practice Kriya. This question plagued me for years and years but I can tell you you today without a doubt Aum is not tinitus. It is a different sound, it’s almost a non-sound in a way, and it brings unsolicited spontaneous joy. I admit I tune into it by listening to my tinnitus’ layers morphing into one peculiar sound and another until finally they’re is something beyond, and I have to focus on that. When you experience it, it is very different. Take my experience for what it’s worth to you, just keep in mind I had suspected them to be the same thing every since I first read Yoganda’s description of them manifesting in the chakras – on paper they look to be the same by experience they are quite different.

  32. The practice you’re referring to, Scott, and which it sounds like you happened to stumble upon, is called “nada yoga”, or the unification of mind through sound. According to a Buddhist book I just finished reading about the 8 buddhist jhanas, or stages of concentration, for those that can hear the inner hum, focusing on it as a means of unifying the mind is considered one of the more efficient and effective objects of meditation, because it leads the mind both very gently and very swiftly through the deep states of unification. But as not everyone can hear it, or develops the ability to hear it, it’s a rather neglected practice.

  33. @Scott: You wrote, “I can tell you without a doubt Aum is not tinnitus”.

    I wonder how certain you are? On a scale of 0-100%, that you know what you hear is “Aum”.

    Interestingly, these same so-called “Om” sounds–buzzing, flute, harp, gong, rushing waters, ocean roar and so on–are described by doctors as tinnitus. Some gurus and yogis preached (in the Tantra schools circa 900-1000 CE) the same sounds are the Aum or vibrations from chakras.

    Most meditation practitioners have been duped into believing the reality of certain premises, while at the same time those premises are actually beyond their awareness or their verification. The meditator relies on a given teacher, guru, philosophy or tradition to validate the reality of their meditation experiences. I no longer rely on gurus or those premises.

    Read my post Duped by meditation?

    @Mark B: Yes, listening to internal sounds, following or watching one’s breath or thoughts all can lead to an interiorized mind or disassociated state of consciousness. These states can be good, can be bad. I find them neutral. It’s the meaning we bring to them. Or, for some practitioners these states of mind can be psychologically troublesome or dangerous. Read my post Depersonalization & Derealization

    BTW: You mention “unification” of mind several times. What the heck does that mean? I’m ok with a mind and body that has polarity, duality. It’s the premises that we can buy about “unity”, oneness, or perfection that actually create the duality and need for us to buy what charlatans are selling–so-called “unity”, perfection, or oneness.

    Best wishes

  34. What is also interesting concerning this subject is that tinnitus is stronger/louder with most people who hear these sounds AFTER they have slept (even if just for a nap).
    I also read and experienced that during a sleep paralysis such sounds occur quite often.

  35. @Guidan: Sounds intriguing. In future, would you please provide citations or links to your sources so interested readers may look at what you are referring to? Thanks for your comments.

  36. Ive had tinnitus throughout my life. Its the one thing ive never been able to figure out. Sometimes it gets unexpectedy loud for a few seconds. It seems even the best doctors are perplexed by this strange phenomena. I always wondered if its caused by some kind of undiscovered cosmic particles streaming across the universe. Its mostly been a mystery to me but there is one thing ive realized about my tinnitus. Its strongly linked to my emotion. Particularly the feeling of FEAR. Many years ago, i was involved in a dangerous situation. My fear levels were extremely high at the time and i also noticed that my tinnitus had become very loud in relation to that emotion. Thats the only clue i have discovered at this point. Its been a personal mission of mine to fully understand the source of this condition and i hope to succeed soon.

  37. @Nicko: I agree with you that is appears that our emotional, physical and psychological states can change the sounds we hear. OR, changes can apparently occur randomly.

    When I hear the sounds, if I open my mouth in certain ways it also gets louder. Or, the sounds change for no seeming reason while I’m meditation. I used to feel (think) I was diving deep into the “cosmic power” of the universe. Why? Because that how I was conditioned to interpret these experiences? I’ve since changed my mind…

    It is we humans who seek patterns out of randomness and want to make sometimes insignificant experiences means something significant. The yogis apparently made these tinnitus sounds mean “Om” or god, pranic energy, or waves from chakras. We know the sounds are there. You and I hear them, as other people do. The interpretations of what they are, by yogis are wildly speculative and highly imaginative. Of course, it’s easy for us to inject whatever meaning we want when the sounds seem mysterious and the yogis say they are spiritual. Perhaps they are that, but I think its highly unlikely the sounds are cosmic particles.

    What does “cosmic energy” even mean in this context we are talking about? Such vague terms and abstract ideas like “cosmic” or “Om” have little veracity when we are intellectually honest and scientifically curious.

    Thanks for your comments.

  38. Tinnitus or Om?
    It doesn’t matter what the explanation is because you can still meditate on the sound as it brings benefits either way.
    Don’t worry about it and don’t think you are an advanced guru just because you can hear a sound in your head. It’s not an excuse to give up on your quest.
    What matters is whether you are continuing on your path or not.

  39. @Peter: Thanks for writing. You didn’t share any context from where you offer your advice. As: Devotee of yoga? Follower of a particular guru? Which path are you referring to that you advise me to continue to follow?

    FYI: Indeed, it is my path that I am following. I ask no others to believe or follow me. Only to follow their own path, not someone else’s. Hence why I write what I did. Gurus are no longer part of my path. I outgrew the need to follow their advice. My ideas on the benefits/pitfalls of meditation continue to evolve.

  40. As a longtime yoga practitioner and instructor, who since 1986 contends with tinnitus 24/7 (it is common to be awoken by the head noise), my ego would delight in the illusion/delusion of tinnitus signaling a spiritual awakening/at-one-ment (as alluded to in naada yoga).
    I’ve had many friends and associates with good intentions (along with a handful of wannabe gurus) try to help, but to no avail.
    I’ve tried longterm (15+ years) nutritional supplement programs, sought allopathic care, laughed at the infomercials, and needless to say, use yoga and meditation as a management tool.
    For many years I’ve used the 6900 – 6980 Hz tone as a focal point during meditation, as if the tinnitus was a pathway toward a deeper opening into expanded space.
    From a psychological perspective, I worked with the idea I was not ready to let go of the tinnitus and everything associated with its “raison d’etre.”
    Eventually, I came to understand no matter how much I let go of, the tinnitus would remain.
    Form what I have read in peer reviewed journals, there has yet to be developed a successful treatment to repair damaged cochlear hair cells.
    Until an effective “cure” is developed, I will continue to experiment, to focus, to observe the phenomenon of hearing as a layered process, where the brain and nervous system have a self-reflexive capacity–with the understanding, that when the brain tries to understand itself, a degree of self-deception can be assured.

  41. @Steven Norber: Sorry to hear you have challenges with “head noise” or possibly tinnitus. Have you had a physician’s diagnosis?
    There are medical specialists with expertise in tinnitus treatments or management. I’d recommend seeking a qualified physician-specialist.

    I’m not sure if the sounds I hear in and out of meditation practice are clinical tinnitus. The sounds I hear fit both the medical definitions of tinnitus AND the yogic sounds described as mystical or yogic perceptions of cosmic sounds. Interesting coincidence. I go with the medical explanation over magical one.

    We humans are indeed wired for self-deception. That’s not necessarily always a bad thing. However, we need to be aware of our cognitive biases (self-deceptions) lest we re-interpret the perceptions in self-deceptive ways to fit into models of magical-thinking or religious/spiritual superstitions.

    Thanks for sharing your story and writing about the topic of this post.
    Scott

  42. Hi Scott.
    Thank you for your support.
    I’m with you on the “magical thinking” problem, albeit my attempt at humorously addressing it in the first paragraph of the above comment would be easy to miss.
    I’ve seen many students/practitioners “new age-ify” yoga and other so-called ancient wisdom disciplines to avoid personal/psychological matters.
    I have found teaching can serve as a mirror to remind me of my own potential/tendencies to do the same.
    Over the years I have met with otolaryngologists to inquire about updates on treatments, and was once invited to do a workshop at a local ENT facility to introduce meditation as a management tool.
    The tinnitus I contend with has been diagnosed and isolated to the 6900 to 6980 Hz range, with occasional shifts above and below.
    It is the result of a bicycle accident with injury to the inner ear (in conjunction with a TBI).
    The tinnitus remains manageable throughout the day, however, I have yet to develop a consistent method/technique to address the noise when it wakes me from sleep.
    Like any experience, the personal perception is unique to each individual, one to the next–as may be the means to coping. . .
    This is the first time I have written about my experience with tinnitus on a public site.
    If/when I learn something new, I will share the information here.
    Kindly,
    Steven

  43. @Steven: Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts as it relates to tinnitus and yoga meditation. Glad to hear you are doing your best to manage tinnitus with the help of medical professionals. Scott

  44. I always hear a high pitch sound in my head, whether I’m meditating or not. My ENT does not think it’s tinnitus. My hearing acuity is perfect. As a child i would think that’s the sound on account of Earth’s revolution 🙂 The sound is not disturbing at all. Additionally, sometimes I also hear one more sound in my ears , kind of opening and closing, which I assume is some heart valve operating.

  45. @Maria: Thanks for sharing. What was your religious tradition growing up? You said as a child you thought the sound was “earth’s revolution”. I assume that was something you either learned to interpret the sound as child or later in life in hindsight you are interpreting your memories of the high pitched sound. Or, please explain so we can understand your interesting experience. I too hear other sounds, heartbeat or pulsing sounds which are probably internal organs or movements of blood, etc. Also, I’d be curious to hear what your current religious persuasion is and how you currently interpret the sounds you hear. thanks

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