“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” Mahatma Gandhi
Many of us associate the holidays with giving and receiving gifts. However, if you feel that you already have enough stuff, you can still give yourself a gift that is positive, transformational, free and truly priceless. The gift I am talking about is the gift of silence.
We live surrounded by numerous sources of sounds and noises. It can be argued that we live in an increasingly noisy world.
In addition to the growing number of sound and noise sources in our surroundings, the level of loudness is increasing also. Here is a brief and eloquent example of what is called loudness war:
It is not surprising that many of us feel that there is too much noise around us.
One of the limbs of Yoga is called pratyahara. Some authors, like T.K.V. Desikachar (in The Heart of Yoga), and A.G. Mohan (in Yoga for Body, Breath, and Mind) talk about pratyahara as a practice in which we withdraw our minds from processing the information perceived by the senses. Pratyahara, calls our attention to the importance of taking a break from constant processing of sensory stimuli. Most of us find that our minds are continually jumping back and forth, with external sensory information contributing to distract us even more. This is where pratyahara can be a gift that we can really appreciate. There are numerous techniques conducive to practicing pratyahara, the gift of silence is a very simple one.
The technique step by step
It is important to notice that hearing a sound is a process. The sound is emitted by an external source and is received internally by our hearing organs. Once we register the sound, we proceed to process the sound in different ways. Thus, the gift of silence is a practice that requires actions at both levels, external and internal.
First, to give yourself the gift of silence, you create a clear intention to find silence for 5 minutes a day.
- Set your intention to allow silence to emerge for the next 5 minutes, even in the midst of seemingly uncontrollable noise.
- Pause whatever you are doing.
- Notice the sources of sound/noise in your immediate environment. Then you consciously turn off those sources, such as radio, TV, mobile phone, computer, ipod, etc.
- After removing the external noises, observe if there is an internal process that continues producing “mental noises”. Often these noises are incomplete thoughts floating in our minds. Instead of trying to turn those “mental noises” off, we simply notice them and allow them to drift away. This is generally much simpler than one thinks, because the string of incomplete thoughts can be quite incoherent. Any time a new source of noise, internal or external, emerges notice it and let it fade away.
- Notice all the different sounds that contribute to the sensation of noise. Perhaps you can start by listening for distant sounds, but do not try to identify or concentrate too much on any particular sound. Just acknowledge the sound and continue moving your attention gently from one external sound to another.
- Notice that as you focus briefly on one sound the other sounds seem to fade away.
- Gradually move your attention to closer sounds.
- Eventually you notice the sounds closest to you.
- Without changing anything notice the sound of your own breath.
- Then open to hear all sounds at once, it seems paradoxical, but amidst all the sounds you might find that you are in perfect silence.
- After 5 minutes, you can choose to turn on whatever sources of sound you wish to hear.
It happens often that we feel a sense of tranquility and clarity as we immerse in the experience of silence. Consequently, sometimes you might feel that you want to continue the experience of silence for a little while longer. To see if this practice makes sense, and if it is useful to you, set your intention to try it everyday for 2 weeks without interruptions. Also, pay attention to any changes you notice as you continue practicing. For instance, you may find that observing silence helps you think more clearly, feel more relaxed and notice patterns of behavior that cause you to be distracted. Sometimes we find that immersing in the experience of silence can help us while we do your daily activities.
Giving yourself the gift of silence plants a seed for powerful transformation. This is a gift that does not cost anything and does not require a specific setting, instruments or equipment. This is a practice that can be done at any time and that can help us focus, reflect and relax.
Simple guided meditation with Rubén