Practically all my meditation training has been in disciplines of opening the attention to admit all available phenomena, in order to learn to be present with them. But as someone easily irritated by sensation, it’s incredibly therapeutic to me to close my attention to outside phenomena, especially if I’m trying to concentrate.

Even though it’s the opposite of my meditation instructions, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m still practicing when I’m doing this.

Often I can’t achieve this state of closed concentration without a pair of noise-canceling headphones and a good myNoise setting. But once I’ve got the world well and truly blocked out, deeply interesting things begin to arise.

For one thing, my mind quiets itself. I get a clear sense that the thinking part of my mind is like the surface of a pond, and the world is chucking rocks into it all the time, creating unending turbulence. When I artificially put a force field around the pond, it quickly goes still. Only slight perturbations from below the surface ripple out, and they dissipate without a trace.

An emotion of relief arises, too, and that quickly gives way to compassion. All beings are having rocks tossed into their ponds, and even the best force fields are impermanent. My gratitude for a brief respite is powerful enough to reorient me towards the outside with an attitude of leaving no trace, tossing no rocks, even a desire to protect others from disturbance.

Doesn’t that sound super Buddhist? Yet no Buddhist-trained person has ever told me to block out sensations. Maybe I just haven’t asked the right question yet.