Most of us are familiar with silence at a physical level, when we either stop moving or talking for a little bit. Extensive research indicates that humans can speak about 140-160 words/minute, but can listen and comprehend around 400-500 words in a minute! Hence the popular statement, listen more and talk less. When we listen, we learn and understand better. We can resolve tense situations and find peace with others and ourselves, just by choosing silence.
We are well aware of the benefits, why then is silence so difficult to achieve?
Kahlil Gibran, a philosopher-poet of the highest order-addressed the relationship between silence, solitude, and self-knowledge in a portion of his 1923 classic, The Prophet (Brainpickings.com).
"There are those among you who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.
The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.
And there are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a truth which they themselves do not understand.
And there are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in words.
In the bosom of such as these the spirit dwells in rhythmic silence."
Our mind is like a multiplex cinema, projecting several movies at the same time. Complexities of our life demand that we try to find solutions by constantly thinking/ruminating --without pausing, reflecting or contemplating. Muddled in our head, we end up with anxiety, health issues, sleep disturbances and fragmented relationships. With thoughts pouring in incessantly, silencing our minds becomes an unattainable ideal!
Silence in yoga is called Mauna. Infact, Dr. David Frawley calls Mauna, the Yoga of Silence, rightly so, because like any yoga practice, finding silence requires discipline and the right intention. Silence allows us to examine our internal ecosystem, beyond the physical chatter of words and emotional chatter of thoughts. Silence helps us conserve energy. Mindful actions and meaningful conversations replace blurt of temper or imprudent reactions. His Holiness Dalai Lama was once asked why he pauses and smiles before answering a question. His response was that "the pause" enables him to structure his words and articulate them in a way that no one gets hurt by words. Afterall, words can start wars and end relationships!
However, silence can get uncomfortable. A quiet mind can become a fertile pasture for distressing, hurtful thoughts, or for reminiscing` sorrowful events. Buddhist Vipassana retreats are 7-10 day long silent sessions, where peace is found by encountering thoughts and embarking on a self-exploratory journey. Silent retreats can be intimidating and difficult to endure -- to be in our own company for 10 days, without uttering a word! But people who do complete the retreat and navigate the period of intense silence, learn to befriend themselves and come out of mental and emotional upheavals, laced with life changing experiences.
Long periods of silence might not work for everyone. Yogic silence offers to bring peace in everyday life and sets the tone for the practice of silence beyond the mat. Moving through postures or asanas, as we settle down in Shavasana (relaxation in corpse pose), we quieten our body and then quieten our mind. I teach several ways to pacify the mind and find mental peace in my yoga classes. Breath awareness, body awareness, Mantra chanting and other methods are powerful ways to explore the stillness within. Once we discover inner tranquility, we learn to better manage the vagaries of life and perhaps find viable solutions to problems in a composed manner. The 20th century Indian sage, Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, radiated peace and taught us that true happiness exists within us. When we still our minds and go beyond the material world, we become self-aware and can ultimately answer the deep spiritual question of "Who am I? " (sriramanamaharshi.org)
Mauna teaches us to tune into our body and mind as well as be receptive to the ideas/opinions of our companions and colleagues. Life becomes a cradle of empathy, compassion and understanding. Isn’t this the need of the hour? More people are voicing their opinion, but few are willing to listen. Instead of making silence an uncomfortable pause, we need to embrace it as a much needed source of wisdom. Silence then is not absence of thoughts but a repository of intuitiveness.
I leave you with intuitive silence. A roadmap to inner wisdom through the practice of Mauna.
Author : Deepti Gupta
All of us have a story to tell. Turning ideas into words and life's experiences into stories is empowering and fulfilling.