(Written October 20th, 2011)
Yesterday, for the first time in my life (that I am at least consciously aware of) I spent an entire day from waking to bedtime, without uttering a single word. This was part of a day of silence in the Ashram, so almost everyone participated. Although, most people began speaking again after dinner, I continued with the practice.
The practice of silence has been part of yogic traditions for probably as long as there has been yoga. I will admit, even in my daily life, I prefer as much silence around me as possible. I would rather sit in a silent room than watch TV on most occasions. I would rather not speak at all than to force a conversation of pleasantries. And I have even become pretty sensitive to the types of music I listen to on a regular basis. (Spending hours a day with massage and new age music played at low volumes will probably do that to most people.)
So, I welcomed the practice. I went to bed the previous evening, having already turned my “silence” practice on, and when I awoke, I was already in the mode. The first thing I noticed, was that it was very comfortable for me. During the morning meditation, having already turned my awareness away from speech, I became aware of the inner realm of thought very easily, and it was also easy on this particular morning to direct my awareness into the silence within as well.
I also noticed I become more sensitive to other sounds. The sounds of birds chirping, or any little bit of racket that may have been in the outside environment. I was present to new things. Within the meditation, there were times when something in my mind let go just enough, that it felt like the outer world merged into my mind, and the sounds of birds and the wind blowing were like thoughts arising within my own mind.
After morning asana practice, I spent some time outside connecting with nature. I discussed this in a previous post called “My Tantric Nature.” And then the flow of the day began. People going about walking from place to place, without speaking. And I began to notice something very odd. People, having adopted a practice of silence, seemed to enter their own private world. People were looking at the sidewalk instead of saying hello. It seemed that without words, most people didn’t know how to connect, or perhaps thought it was inappropriate to do so. No eye contact. No smiles. No winks of joy shared. Just blank faces, looking any where but an another person.
In Tantra, there is a practice called Eye Gazing, or Soul Gazing. It is sitting in silence, sending your awareness deep into the Soul Essence of another person, and allowing yourself to feel, to connect, to experience another Being without words, as they also connect into your deepest Self. This practice, at least in the beginning, is often met with discomfort. It is normal for people to laugh or giggle, or to close their eyes. It is normal for obvious discomfort to come across their face and body, and to see them squirming. I explain over an over to new groups of people, that these reactions are a part of our conditioning. It is rare in our culture for us to be so intimate with another. Even with the ones that we love such as friends, family and significant others.
Most of us say we want love, to feel it, to know it, to give it. But when given the chance to sit, and honor the Essence of the other people with love and reverence, something stirs within us that pulls us out of it, that causes us discomfort. The reality, is that for most of us, this fear of deeper connection is always there, just below the surface, but we don’t feel it because we distract ourselves with thoughts, with TV, with activity, and of course, with words. We don’t allow there to be enough silence, enough stillness to acknowledge it.
The same is true for many people with regards to their own thoughts and feelings. We find ways to distract ourselves, and never get still enough to feel or connect consciously to our own inner world. The moment silence is imminent, most people will jump up, turn on the TV, grab a book, begin to talk about anything that comes to mind: anything to not have to feel what is happening in our deeper experience.
As I watched the blank faces parading through the ashram, and the gazes away from each other, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of sadness. Sadness for not having an opportunity to connect, and sadness to see so many unable to make the connection without words. Without words, they seemed to have nothing to share. It never occurred to share their silent Essence. That same silence which pulses beneath Creation lives within our own Beings, ready to be tasted, touched and felt. That silence contains the Love we are seeking. It is not the words that convey love, but the Essence of a Pure Heart.
As I continued my day, I enjoyed the silence. I watched for moments when I might ordinarily speak, and then questioned whether speaking was necessary. In most cases I found the answer to be no. When a desire to speak would arise, I would watch as I reminded myself there was no talking today. And I witnessed the desire for whatever pass through, unspoken, and not responded to. And after the moment passed, I realized I was no worse off. I was still content, even joyful in my silence, and the thing I thought I wanted to communicate, or thought I wanted to ask made me no less joyful for not being shared. I was content to experience what was around me, without commenting, or feeling a need to inquire deeper into it with words. I was content without feeling the need to request something else to make it more or less “satisfying”.
What are these words we speak? And why do we speak them at all? How much of what is said is really useful to our deeper happiness, and how much is just habit and social convention and expectation?
The Tantric traditions describe three primary stages of speech. There is the gross speech of our everyday lives. This is the speech we use to share ideas from person to person, and vibrates at the most dense level. We then have a more subtle form of speech that we call thought. This is the speech that continues the dialogue in our own inner world. And beyond that is the most subtle form of speech, which exists as the arising impulse of vibration, that eventually becomes the thought, which then becomes the words spoken.
The normal world conditions us to focus on Gross speech. And over time, we come to identify with and give great importance to the Reality of this outer form of speech. Most of us also give, even without realizing it, great importance to our thoughts.
When one takes up the practice of silence, the outer speech is given up. This initially leaves us with our thoughts, and the opportunity to contemplate our relationship with gross speech. It gives us the opportunity to experience life without outer words, so that we might see how we have come to identify with them in a way that keeps us looking into the outer world. It gives us a chance to see how the words themselves are associated with our desires, attachments and aversions, and the way that words reinforce the same as “reality”.
When the inner thoughts become the primary world, and outer speech is stopped, then the next step is to get beyond even the thoughts themselves, and into the arising vibrations which are pre-thought. A realm of feelings, and intuitions, and knowledge that really has no “word” as we call it, just vibrations. And dissolving even those vibrations, we are taken into the realm of the practice of silence: inner silence itself. This Silence is the Holy Grail of meditation, but it is not just emptiness and nothingness, but is great peace, joy and love.
This is the basic general idea of meditation, and practicing silence gives you an opportunity to explore these levels of meditation in your daily living. To discover this peace and silence within the world around you is a goal of Tantra. We practice meditation so that we can transfer the depth of experience into our daily lives, not just to escape for a few minutes of peace.
Throughout the whole day, my voice only made one sound: the sound of laughter. After dinner, there were a few people speaking around me, and a story someone told made me laugh. So even Gross speech has its place. It caused me to laugh.
It is not that gross speech is “wrong” or bad. It is not that it should be given up entirely forever by everyone, but practicing silence should hopefully help us put it in perspective, so we don’t make it the “great reality”, and so that we see its limitations. So that we see the ways it can distract us, and become mindful so we don’t use words in this way. To become mindful of the ways words can harm, so we don’t use speech for negative purposes. So we learn to harness what, when and why we speak into conscious choices which enrich our lives, rather than just allowing mindless chatter to fill the silent space around us. So that we connect the words “I love you” with the deep love that arises within the Heart of our deepest Essence upon recognizing the Sacredness of the Being in front of us. And so we can learn to connect with others is this heart felt way even without words. So that silence gives us more presence to connect with others through smiles, honoring and love.
As I flowed through my day of silence, many moments of deeper love, gratitude and joy arose, as I touched into spaces of deeper silence within my own Being. This brought me to one other point of sadness: I will never be able to convey the experience of that Love and Joy with words.
There is a laundry room and storage area in the basement of my home which has become overly filled with useless things. It is not a large room to begin with, but the free wall space and shelf space has become full to the point where additional items are spilling out, slowly overtaking any practical floor space. There is just barely enough room to get in and do laundry and get out. Occasionally I will trip over some random item en route.
The open floor space has also become the storage area for the vacuum. In recent months, another member of my household has decided that “the vacuum is in the way, and must be put somewhere else.” Whether fair or not, I find this concept amusing. To my mind, the vacuum is one of only a handful of things in the room which is actually useful, worth keeping and stored in a convenient location.
It amuses me to think that even the very best canister vacuums to use, the very essence of a clean floor, is the “enemy” when all around the room are stacks of ceramic tiles which will never be used, an abundance of scrap wood which will likely serve no future purpose, close to 20 cans of half used paint from previous projects, and an empty, barely clean birdcage from a pet that died three years ago. The list goes on to include power tools which have not been properly stored (because you can’t get to the shelf space where they should go), endless random construction items like doorknobs, screws, nails, and of course a studio sized four-burner gas stove and oven that was purchased over 8 years ago for a specific project, and have never been used because the project needs were altered.
The majority of items will practically never be used, and the items which are worth keeping are not stored in a manner which is an efficient use of space or convenient to get to. Yet somehow, because the vacuum is in the walk-able floor area, IT is “in the way”. I laugh to myself as I see all the useless items disappear, and the vacuum cleaner sitting quietly and peacefully alone, snuggled up next to the now inaccessible wall, completely out of the walk path in a now open room.
This situation, however stimulated in me the following questions. “How often do we fail to see the real ‘problem’ or ’cause’ of the ‘obstacles’ we see in our lives? How often do we define the ‘Vacuum’ or the discomfort in the moment as the problem, when the deeper issue is the piles of useless junk which clutter our hearts and minds?” It is so much easier to look at and respond to the resulting crisis than it is to look at all of the influences, choices and actions which led up to it. The “vacuum” is not the problem. The junk that prevents it from having a proper home is.
An important part of the path of personal growth and transformation is the ability to open self-awareness and observe the role we play in the experiences we have in life. To stop blaming the Vacuum when what we really need to do is acknowledge and deal with the “mess” that brought about the situation. Taking personal responsibility for what we have done and what we have not done, and then consciously addressing those areas of our lives, rather than simply reacting to the outcome and acting surprised or as if it has been “done to us” by some outside cruel force of the universe.
In some cases, the “mess” was created long ago through our conditioning in childhood, or past lives. As part of the Tantric healing process, we learn to clean up and clear out the past conditioning so we can be free and fresh in the moment. In this way, we remove the clutter from our hearts and mind, and keep the energy of our life flowing freely, and the enjoyable and useful experiences have room in our lives and our hearts. When our hearts and minds are cluttered, there is no room for what is joyful and peaceful, because all of life revolves around “finding a place for the vacuum”.
Joy, Love and Happiness all should be a part of your life as they are a part of your True Nature. If you are struggling to create a place for them in your life, then stop and look at the ways you can clear up the mental clutter and energetic conditioning from the past to open space for them in your heart. Simple meditation practices can help calm the mind, giving your greater peace, focus and self-awareness. Tantric Energy Clearing practices can be learned from a Tantric teacher or practitioner. Through a combination of healing sessions and self-healing at home, you can use these techniques to clear the inner landscape of your Heart and Awareness, and create space for Joy and Love to arise.
The next time an “obstacle” arises in your life, stop and ask yourself “How did this experience get created? Is there some practical way I could have prevented it? Can I correct the situation to prevent it from happening again?” And then take the practical steps to clean up “the mess” whether that means cleaning out the laundry room to make room for the vacuum, or seeking assistance to energetically clear our your mind and heart so you can re-harmonize your life.
Learn the stages or progression of Mantra Meditation practice from beginner to intermediate to advanced, and the reasons for the different stages. Better understand the added healing power of group Mantra Meditation Practice and why it can benefit your practice.
Open to the importance of being present to whatever experience you are having in Mantra meditation practice without expectations. Do not assume what your experience should or will be while chanting or practicing Mantra Meditation.
This is Part 6 of 8 in the Mantra Meditation Series.
Discover the practical benefits of Mantra Meditation and the advantages of Mantra over other types of Meditation. Learn the spiritual benefits of Mantra practice and the Nature of the True Self that Mantra practice reveals. Understand how the Mantra “AUM” or “OM” relates to the process of Creation, Spiritual Devotion, and your True Self.
Part 3 of 8 in the Introduction to Mantra Meditation Series.
To begin any Meditation practice, we must gain a proper understanding of what meditation is and our relationship to the mind. Finding Peace of mind through meditation requires the proper perspective for effective practice. Additional information for why Mantra is such a powerful Tantric Meditation practice.
Part 2 of 8 in the Introduction to Mantra Meditation series.