Here is my third blog in the series 'blogging with images'. This time the blog is about hearing, rather than sight. It looks at the way our experience of the world is built on the associations we make with particular sounds. Often our associations are accurate, but very often they are inaccurate, and this causes us a lot of unnecessary frustration and irritation. I had a strong sense of this recently – here is the tale:

Whenever I stay in Australia to escape the UK winter, I live with friends in their house in the bush just outside Sydney. It is a very beautiful location and I get to stay in an aesthetic house lovingly built on Japanese principles of design, to rest into the kindness of friends, and from dawn to dusk hear the continual tinkle of bell birds.

In terms of human noises there is not much. Sometimes there is the faint shush of passing cars in the distance, or the telephone ringing. But, on the whole, nature rules out here and I love it.

So you can imagine my annoyance when the local farmer started up his irrigation pumps. Suddenly there was the repetitive, rhythmic sound of the pump going up and down, up and down, up and down. It seemed to start at dawn and go on till dusk - whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop. I got more and more worked up and irritated, with all the associated story lines in my head getting louder and louder: "what a shame that all the noises of nature are dominated by this annoying pump; surely he doesn't need to have it going quite so much? How strange that he's still pumping even though there's been so much rain". I came to listen out for the pump in some perverse quest to feed my irritation. It was the most dominant noise amidst all the chaos of nature. It seemed to bellow over the top of all the other noises. On and on and on. And on.

After quite some time, I thought to ask about the behaviour of the farmer by asking my friend "what sort of farming does he do? How come he needs to pump so continuously? Isn't it annoying the way the sound travels?" My friend looked at me blankly, perhaps wondering if I was losing my mind. "There's no irrigating going on at the moment - I can't hear any pump". So I asked him to listen, rather astonished that he could have blocked out such a dominating sound. Eventually he realised what I was talking about and said "Oh, that's not a pump! That's a wonga pigeon! They're beautiful birds! Isn't their call lovely?"

Suddenly, the sound of the annoying pump became the beautiful sound of a bird call. All the rubbish going on in my head disappeared and I became fascinated by the calling of the pigeon soaring out into the bush. Calling out to its friends and partners in its own mysterious language.

Now when the whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop starts up I see a bird in my mind's eye, rather than an ugly pump. It is simply the call of a dear old friend and it no longer dominates. I have my own name for the wonga pigeon - "the greater spotted pump bird" - and the bush wouldn't be the same without this old pal.

Why don't you spend a few moments today 'just listening' - letting go of all the story lines that your mind creates about different sounds - and simply letting sounds be sounds as a simple sense impression. Allow your mind and heart to drop beneath the chattering, describing, narrative mind, to rest in something much more broad and deep.

Vidyamala Burch