The real in us is silent; the acquired is talkative.
-- Kahlil Gibran
From TV sets and radios to sirens, jet aircraft, horns, and the constant yammer of too many people with too much to say, our world is filled with noise. When we are not engaged in listening to something or someone, we are usually yapping away ourselves, either externally or at least in our own heads. As a result very few people have experienced true quiet. Imagine a silence that is so rich and reaches so deeply within your mind that it then expands to envelop the sights and sounds and people around you. This is a silence altogether alien to the workaday world and our lives in it. Yet this silence is something we can learn to experience and appreciate.
It is true that we can't make the world shut up, as much as we would sometimes like to slap a strip of duct tape across its magnificent mouth. This is one of the reasons I like to express my ideas via the written word; if you do not like what I am saying, you can always shut me up -- just close the book. But even though we can't shut off the noise, we can learn to hear it differently.
Developing Internal Silence
By developing internal silence we are building a sheltered cove within ourselves, a place of stability from all the busyness that takes place around us. It is possible to see the world at peace when we are watching it through our own silent mind. This is the power of silence: the power to paint the entire world into a quiet place through the peace in our own mind.
Remember, over our own minds we do have control. We cannot make the world shut up, but we can learn to be quiet and in turn to see that the world reflects our own hushed state of mind.
Right now it may seem impossible that you could ever experience this type of silence. But I ask you to consider that the nature of the mind is naturally one of silence. It takes energy to constantly think. Thinking is an action, something we do. Silence, on the other hand, is the state of the mind at rest, the mind unoccupied. So try thinking of it this way: silence is like sitting quietly, and thinking is like standing up and walking -- only mentally. If you were on your feet all day, pacing the floor like a nervous father-to-be, wouldn't you be physically exhausted? Yet this is what we do in our minds all day, every day.
Practicing external silence is one way to broaden your understanding of silence and begin to see just how profound the amount of noise inside the mind really is. Sometime in the coming week, consider devoting a day, or at least a few hours, to silence. Go about your day as you normally would, except without talking. Observe the people around you without entering into the conversations.
Watch your own mind, too, your own impulse to speak, and note any discomfort you feel with silence. In short, watch your thoughts. Are there any moments of quiet in your mind? If not, what would it be like if there were? Ask yourself what the great need to constantly think and talk is really about. Question the need.
This should be a day of contemplation, which always entails observation. Watch and listen, but don't engage. As a practical matter, you may want to carry a pen and pad with you for those moments when communication is necessary. Otherwise, simply pay attention to why and how people use talk to fill up their time.
The Practice of Silence
Many people have devoted much of their lives to the practice of silence. Others regularly set aside a day for silence. I have heard that Gandhi, for instance, practiced a silent day once a week during his later years. For now, though, I am recommending that you give it a try just once. While it won't be the ultimate experience of silence -- because, as you will notice, your mind won't stop just because your mouth has -- the practice can be quite revealing, if not outright startling. It can help you to understand the incessant nature of your thoughts and see how they hamper your meditations.
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After all is said and done, to be silent is to be at peace; a silent mind at peace is also a still mind, which is what meditation is all about. All we need to do in order to open up to spiritual awareness is be quiet and still for a little while. All we need is to stop talking and to be still in body and in mind, for which we really don't need to do anything at all.
In fact, in order to experience deeper meditative states, we must do nothing at all. For just an instant we stop; there is no effort, there is no exercise, there is no meditation, there is no theology, there are no actions, there are no words. Through perfect silence and stillness, we experience an awareness of union beyond the body and the thoughts. This is the final and deepest meditation.
Stop and Practice
Practice "just listening" to the small spaces of silence in between your thoughts, making these silences the focus of today's fifteen-minute meditation. If it helps you, imagine that the silence beyond your thoughts is a powerful, living force that is trying to communicate with you. Let go of all fears, doubts, and restlessness today, and invite the silence to envelop you completely. Just be quiet and listen carefully.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library. ©2003.
The Power of Stillness: Learn Meditation in 30 Days
by Tobin Blake.
The Power of Stillness comes as close as any book could to having a teacher by your side as you learn to meditate, sitting with you each day and gently guiding you through each meditation. The book provides an easy to follow 30-day program to learn what meditation is, how it might help you, and most importantly, how to do it.
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About the Author
Tobin Blake has studied various metaphysical teachings for more than fifteen years and has been meditating regularly for nearly a decade. Through Self-Realization Fellowship, an international organization founded by Paramhansa Yogananda and now supporting more than 500 temples and meditation centers in fifty-four countries, Blake received training in the sacred practice of Kriya Yoga, the organization's highest meditation technique, which was first noted in Paramhansa Yogananda's classic, Autobiography of a Yogi. Visit his website at www.tobinblake.com.