What does silence mean to you? Is silence Golden? Many of us don’t know what real silence is and never experience it. Some of us are frightened of silence, its expansiveness is intimidating and uncomfortable.
I don’t think silence really exists in any lasting form. Not as described by our dictionary: the lack of any sounds. There are always sounds, even on the quietest part of the earth. I always loved the expression ‘listen to the silence’ because it means that really there is no real silence, there is always something to hear.
Years ago, I experienced those floating tanks where you submerge yourself in salty waters and float in the darkness of a confined space. It is incredibly relaxing, and I remember experiencing real silence in this space for a fleeting moment. Then suddenly I was confronted with the sound of my thoughts. Even in the darkest and most peaceful place in London, the sound followed me.
And is this a bad thing? Do we need to force silence upon ourselves? Can we embrace ‘listening to the silence?’ Most of us were born with the ability to hear, and sound is a natural part of our experience of life. So perhaps we need to learn to live with, and not against, sound.
So why are we so desperate to find silence and push noises away? From time to time we certainly need to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of life, devices, endless aggressions from advertising, social media and the news. Our brain and body need silence to relieve stress and anxiety, to replenish our mental resources and to regenerate.
This is why the quest for inner silence is becoming a big business. Silent retreats are thriving. Insuch retreats, we experience ten days of complete meditative silence. We are isolated to escape our busy world. We detach ourselves from books, phones, our friends and family and we focus on inner peace and developing our spiritual practice.
Furthermore, hatha yoga encourages us to practice the art of Antar Mouna. This meditative practise allows us first to move away from hearing and the other senses. It allows us to simply watch ourselves, to observe the activity of our mind without getting involved within it. We can see how our thoughts unfold and affect our moods and behaviours without reacting so that we can find our true self. We then might find real stillness and real silence within us.
For you to experiment and to enjoy, I have written a simplified and shorter version of Antar Mouna meditation that I often use in my meditation and yoga Nidra classes or workshops. Traditionally, Antar Mouna has different steps and can be as long as one hour of practice. It can be a daunting practice if you are not used to it. Here is a more relaxed and more accessible interpretation, enjoy and let me know if you liked it:
Inner silence meditation
- Make sure that you are seated or lying down comfortably in a quiet room.
- Become aware of your present time experience.
- Notice the sensations of your body without being involved.
- Just be a witness and an observer.
- Move your awareness around your body slowly and with attention.
- Check the sensation around the face, shoulders, arms and hands.
- Then move around your torso, with the chest and the abdomen, followed by legs and feet.
- Take your time to observe and to feel.
- Practice this for a few minutes
- Now notice the sounds around you. Let them come to your ears.
- There is no need to think of what makes the sound. Just listen.
- Move your awareness from sound to sound.
- Within the sounds, listen for the fluctuations.
- Listen from all directions.
- Don’t name the sounds; be aware of the sounds.
- Practice this for a few minutes.
- Now, bring your attention near to the body and listen to the sounds close to you or coming from you.
- Perhaps, you might hear something in your inner ears.
- You might hear the soft sound of your breath or a noise coming from your body.
- Listen for the quieter sounds, the subtler sounds.
- Keep your awareness very close to you and listen.
- Let your mind open to any noises or sounds coming from you.
- Practice this for a few minutes.
- Next, move away from the sounds and pay attention to the soft sensation of the breath touching your nostrils.
- Don’t change the flow of the breath, witness and feel it moving in and out of your nose.
- See if you can keep your attention on this spot, at the edge of your nostrils.
- Rest your mind with the feeling of the breath moving in and leaving out of your body without disturbing it.
- Notice how the breath is a part of you, and that you are part of the breath.
- You are one.
- Just be with the breath.
- Be the breath
- Practice for as long as you can stay with the breath.
I am writing this post after finding a small quote about silence in a marvellous book written by the non-dualist master of Advaita Vedanta, Jean Klein. The book is The Book of Listening published by Non- Duality Press.
Here is the text which inspired me:
‘’Silence is our real nature. What we are fundamentally is only silence. Silence is free from beginning and end. It was before the beginnings of all things. It is causeless. Its greatness lies in the fact that it simply is.
In silence, all objects have their home ground. It is the light that gives objects their shape and form. All movement, all activity is harmonised by silence.
Silence has no opposite in noise. It’s beyond positive and negative. Silence dissolves all objects. It is not related to any counterpart which belongs to the mind. Silence has nothing to do with the mind. It cannot be defined but it can be felt directly because it is our nearness. Silence is freedom without restriction or centre. It is our wholeness, neither inside nor outside the body. Silence is joyful, not pleasurable. It is not psychological. It is feeling without a feeler. Silence needs no intermediary.
Silence is holy. It is healing. There is no fear in silence. Silence is autonomous like love and beauty. It is untouched by time. Silence is meditation, free from any intention, free from anyone who meditates. Silence is the absence of oneself. Or rather, silence is the absence of absence.
Sound which comes from silence is music. All activity is creative when it comes from silence. It is constantly a new beginning. Silence precedes speech and poetry and all art. Silence is the home ground of all creativity. What is truly creative is the word, is truth. Silence is the word. Silence is truth.
The one established in lives in the constant offering, in prayer without asking, in thankfulness, in continual love.’’Jean Klein – The Book of Listening.