Taking to silence is a respected practice in perhaps all spiritual traditions, and there is good reason for this. The practice of silence can yield profound benefits.
Many years ago, I met an exceptional yogi named Baba Hari Dass, who has been practicing silence for as long as I’ve been alive. The first thing I noticed about him was his quiet, and his penetrating eyes that seemed as if he could see right through me.
I had an opportunity to ask him some personal questions about myself and my path through life. Although Babaji, as he is affectionately called by his students, is silent, he communicates by written word, writing brief, lean statements -- like tweets! -- on a tiny chalkboard he carries attached to a chord in his pocket.
He answered my questions on that little chalkboard, and I knew he could see through me. His answers cut through my confusions, and went straight to the heart of what I needed to know. I’ve never forgotten how I felt so seen and how so few words could carry such power.
Later, I read that Babaji’s says "silence increases energy and as the mind quiets, one becomes more perceptive of other's thoughts and emotions." No doubt, his silence practice had a lot to do with how perceptive he was in answering my questions and in how he remains so vibrant well into his 70's.
Over the years since meeting Baba Hari Dass, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to practice silence myself.
As first, doing so seemed strange and difficult. “Stop talking? Why would I want to do that?” was the thought I had. The habit of talking was strong in me, and I didn’t want to stop. However, I practiced one day here, a few days there, and soon started enjoying the incredible pleasure of a quiet mind, and this motivated me to practice more.
The constant chatter of the superficial mind uses up a large amount of mental energy and creates such a noise that we can’t hear the subtle promptings of our deeper nature. Silence frees up this energy, and puts us into communion with our deeper selves.
Silence can catalyze creativity too. I once did a long silence practice in India, and it was during this time that writing seemed to just bubble up from a deep well within. I’d feel a sense of being pregnant with words, and would have to write as quickly as possible to get all the words down. This wasn’t active, conscious writing on my part. It just happened. Very little if any editing was necessary. Here’s a piece written in this way at that time:
The Vedic mantra sings in my mind,
My breath is flowing smoothly like a stream,
I am walking, my evening exercise,
A bird in flight reflects in the surface of a pond,
Four men are playing frisbee in the cricket pitch,
They are Sanjay and the three young Brahmacharis, and
I join them.
One American, in green baseball cap and baggy kacki pants,
One Indian who lives in Canada in white pants and t-shirt,
And three young Brahmacharis in yellow dhotis,
Throwing a frisbee in the big grassy field,
Surrounded by the green mountains,
Dung piles to avoid,
We run and laugh.
Then I continue on my way,
Past the water buffalo lying by the side of the road,
And the pig consuming garbage.
A little girl on bicycle,
The one who smiled at me yesterday,
Smiles again, and I am in love.
Her tiny brother joins his hands before his heart and says
I namaste back with my hands, and continue on, silent except for the sound of the mantra in my mind,
Onto the path along the river,
Past last night’s wedding place,
Where plastic cups and spoons litter the path.
A little boy chases a bull out of his yard with a cricket bat,
Whacks the bull hard on its flanks,
And the bull runs with the boy close behind.
The boy, smiling now, returns home and our eyes touch,
His victory and my joy meet.
It is dusk now.
Along the vast, calm, expanse of water
Behind the dam.
Women walking in saris,
Carrying little plastic bags home,
The sun is an orange ball as it sets,
The hills become dark,
The river is glistening,
Smoke is in the air,
As I return down the narrow-walled lane into the ashram.
This past weekend I took a three day silence retreat, a booster, to once again touch-in with the great silence that exists within. I spent the time at a retreat set up for silence, listening to a mantra in my mind, reading inspirational writings, and enjoying the beauty of the place. It was a huge relief. An incredible rest. I came back energized.
Undertaking a silence practice deserves consideration for healing, energy, and feeling at home in yourself. If you'd like to read more about practicing silence, click HERE.