Why is silence or being silent given importance in both the spiritual journey as well as one’s daily life? Right from childhood, our parents and teachers have encouraged us stay quiet if we were being overly talkative. Why the stress upon restraining from talk?
Before we look into the answers for these questions, let us perform a simple experiment. If we spend one hour engaging in conversation with other people be it our friends, relatives, colleagues or anyone else and then try sitting down for either meaningful work or for meditation, what do we observe?
We notice that our mind is agitated and thinking about the many conversations we had. We might also feel that a buffer period is needed to redirect our focus to our work or meditation or anything else that needs our attention.. The whole process of talking externalises the mind to a great extent. Often we are too eager to speak our mind and opinions and not so open to listening to others. By the end of it, feel more restless than before we started the conversation.
Most Vrittis present themselves as chatter of the mind, be it internal or external. We have very little control over the internal chatter, however if we can reduce the external, then perhaps we may be able to gain more control of the inner. The first step towards doing this is to observe outward silence as much as possible and focus within. This whole practice is also called Pratyahara in Yogic parlance, where the practitioner is able to withdraw the mind within at will.
The objective of Yoga is to conserve all the energy of the mind and direct it within. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika excessive talking is one of the activities which acts as a hindrance to the practice. It results in energy dissipation and wastage of time. It often leads to gossip and increases the distractions of the mind.
The Importance of Silence according to Yoga
For a practitioner of Yoga, who according to Sage Patanjali is aiming to achieve “Chitta Vritti Nirodah” or the restraint of the modifications of the brain, silence or Mouna plays a pivotal role. All practices of Yoga starting from the Yama, Niyamas, Asanas till Dhyana are meant to take the mind towards a state where all the Vrittis or disturbances cease to exist.
Yoga is the essential part of the movement from the outer to the inner.”Sri M
Sri M on Silence
Sri M while addressing the Yoga Teacher Training Course students says, “ When two people are in one room, do we spend time quietly or do we chatter away? Excessive talking wastes lots of energy.”
He also says “Silence is not the absence of sound, you can be in a complete solitary place with no sound whatsoever, but if the mind is active,there is no silence. Either we are talking to each other or we are talking to ourselves. Is there a way to just not chatter, otherwise there is no solitude. The mind chatters because either it is asking for something or running away from something. Can we try to be without too much attachment and too much repelling.”
Observing Silence in Daily life
Here are a few simple and practical tips to practice silence:
- Set aside an hour or thirty minutes when you can just be and do nothing. Just let your mind be free and relaxed.
- Before ending the day contemplate silently on how the day was spent and where all you can improve. Only through freeing our minds from being distracted and conflicted during our waking hours can we aim to free our mind during meditation and sleep.
- From time to time if possible, go to solitary retreats and use your time to go within.
- Engage yourself in some activity that gives you joy, like sketching, gardening, walking silently in nature, or just sitting in your garden and watching the birds. Only when the mind is at rest is there room for creativity and newer ideas.
Through this silence comes the true knowledge of one’s own self as it is currently. It is during these periods that one discovers the strengths and flaws in one’s own personality and also gets ideas of how to improve and move forward. This process helps to quieten the mind internally and slowly through dedicated practice.
It is important to remember that we are aiming at inner silence which comes naturally when all the disturbances and the chatter of the mind has subsided. Therefore all the practices undertaken are to subside the mind so that one begins to experience the real inner silence which stays even amidst tremendous activity.
Mouna is a state of mind where the mind has become quiet and tranquil and even in the midst of all cyclones, it’s still calm.Sri M