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What if we didn’t start the new year aggressively striving to create the “new you”? Instead, what if we went inward to know the Self more deeply? This month I invite you to abide in ways of being soft, slow, and silent.
One of my teachers, Indu Arora, encouraged me to read about silence as a practice for healing of consciousness and emotional health. I have enjoyed these insights and practice so much, that I wanted to share this knowledge with you. What follows is a summary of The Song of Silence: Subtleties in Sadhana by Swami Veda Bharati. Please take some time in this new year to read, ponder, and practice this wisdom.
Silence is contemplation, meditation, the core of our species.
We want to reach a point where words and manifestations would be totally lost. Where we rest in the womb of silence where baseline thoughts and emotions have yet to arise. This is the silence of the deep layers of the mind sheath.
Silence is not merely absence of speech. In fact, absence of speech can be emotionally and spiritually damaging. We can be “silent” when angry or fearful, but the mind is highly active still. Silence is not the act of “shutting up.” There is a difference between being negatively silent and meditatively silent. Meditative silence is something that fills, energizes, awakens, clarifies.
There is a relationship between vocal silence and the mind’s quietness. At the speech level, the mind is at the lowest frequency. At the pure-thought level it is at a bit higher frequency. At the mantra level, it is yet a higher frequency. And from there, you can move to even deeper silent layers.
But in the deep dive, there will be obstacles in the way such as samskaras (past imprints), one’s own voice, restlessness, suppressed emotion, desire, perhaps even boredom. We indulge in unnecessary amounts of emotional disturbance. But stay with it and notice what happens when you go deeper into the waves of silence. Instead of chasing flavors of desires, fill your mind with higher frequency energy such as meditation, contemplation, witnessing, self-observation.
The practice of silence is beneficial for spiritual and physical reasons. Silence can be calming and have a feedback effect. It reduces the intensity of emotions, and the absence of intensity of emotion reduces the inclination to speak. A practice of silence also improves patience. The practice of silence trains a baseline emotion of a unagitated mind for the practitioner. In silence, other senses come under control like hunger and sexual or chemical indulgences. Silence conserves energy and is restful. Much of tiredness at the end of the day can come from speaking. The extra energy can be put towards meditation or creative pursuits.
Silence is a disposition, a state, which can also impact others. By maintaining calmness, this mental state is reflected into others’ minds. You can “sprinkle silence over others” through your eyes, senses, heart.
Begin with a vow of 30 minutes to 1 hour of silence. Take an hour’s silent walk. Then sit down and see what your feelings are. Notice what is happening. The best is getting to silence of mind.
Over time, and with practice, one can achieve a depth of practice in 3 minutes’ time that initially took 30 minutes to attain.
And when speech is necessary, master regulated speech by following the three principles of speech that is silence: hitam, mitam, priyam – beneficial, measured, pleasant. Is what I am saying beneficial? Is it measured in tone, level of voice, number of words, to be most effective? And is it being said in the most pleasant manner that is efficacious for the purpose?
For guidance on a day-long practice of silence, read pages 27-30 here.>>
• Swami Veda Bharati (2004). The Song of Silence: Subtleties in Sadhana. Minnesota: The Meditation Center