Most of us are familiar with the spiritual theory that everything we are looking for is in the “silence between thoughts”, but few of us truly comprehend the meaning…myself included. Generally it is the teachers themselves who have reached this level of understanding. Most teach around it, giving mankind day~to~day advice that can be used to eventually “reach the spiritual heights” necessary to even comprehend such an idea. The reason for this is that once we have reached a certain level we don’t need to be told about it, we experience it firsthand, when peace fills the spaces~ once~painful, as thoughts give way to silence.
I have struggled with the idea of silence for many years. Every advancement I have ever made has been because I have thought (and fought) my way through life. I’ve picked myself apart piece by piece, separating what is false from what is true. I have worked though my childhood traumas one by one with no small effort of thought. I have watched others who I yearned to be like and emulated what I saw in them to help perfect myself. How, then, can silence possibly outweigh the years of fighting to become this better “me” that I have become?
Dr. Richard Alpert describes two schools of thought. The Dualists believe that we must use methods to gain integration of all aspects of the psyche, discarding the method when it is no longer needed. The opposition (Dwightists, W. Dwight Whitney), believe that we should stop talking, stop thinking and simply BE. What’s ironic about Dwightists is that only those who have surpassed the method stage can follow their advice. I wouldn’t think that someone who has reached such a height would look back and expect everyone else to be able to follow along, but I suppose it seems so obvious a route to take that the process doesn’t occur to them. Though these Non-Dualists do have a point, it’s not exactly the most practical approach for the average person. They are absolutely right about the cessation of thought being the quickest route to complete understanding, the genesis of pure creation and the allowance of all the universe to rise to our every need. However, in my life I have found that I am just now able to be in a place still enough that I can reap the rewards that silence has to offer.
Once you begin to consider a concept it is likely that you are already heading towards the understanding of it, thus longing to understand is the first step in reaching towards these goals. Meditation is a great way to move in the direction of silence, but many people get easily disillusioned by the process because it is not quick and certainly not easy. We tend to complicate the simplicity of it and expect instant results or even noticeable results in a couple of weeks or a month.
We have become so used to thinking that we have a very hard time letting thoughts go. Generally the beginnings of meditation cause thought to increase rather than decrease and we find ourselves being lost in thought more often than we release it. I have found that until I’ve sat still for at least 30 minutes I cannot even begin to release my thoughts. This is why so few people succeed in reaching silence, most of us don’t have the time. Frustration can lead to an intensified thought process, called by some the “monkey mind” in which your mind furiously bounces from one thought to the other uncontrollably.
In all reality, we should all make time in our day to meditate, as it is the single solution to all the problems of life. There really is no such thing as having no time to meditate, though many of us (myself included) tend to believe this fallacy. If you look at people such as the actor Viggo Mortenson, who has a family, speaks three languages fluently and can hold a conversation in four others, writes poetry, plays piano, enjoys futbol, paints and pursues photography as well as owning his own publishing company, you can see that there is more time in a day than most of us realize. How is this possible? Being that time does not exist, we can stretch it if we so desire. When you reach for the stars you find that they reach to meet you in return and miracles are made. This is what I remind myself often and yet I still continue to keep myself from a consistent study of silence.
The first time I experienced pure silence was in a field. I had longed for a return to the relationship with nature that I had as a child, which had been lost to me over many years. While living in a duplex I found myself across the street from a field, where I began to sit when I had free time. I wasn’t trying to meditate or silence my thoughts in any way, I only wanted to get away and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. I did begin to practice some techniques eventually, it was as if nature drew me towards it.
One day no different from any other I found myself sitting in a chair I had dragged to the field. I was lost in thought, surrounded by tall buffalo grass and all forms of wildlife. Staring off into space my mind got quiet as I listened to the waving of the grass in wind and the songs of birds.
Suddenly everything human inside me ceased to exist. I was absolutely silent inside, devoid of any thought. I was not myself any more than I was the wind that blew the grass, the grass that housed the insects, the insect that moved down to the soil and the soil itself. The feeling was that of pure Oneness with all things and it was utter bliss. I had the ability to experience existence as everything simultaneously.
Other, more recent experiences with silence have produced the same results. There is a wave that emanates from the source of all that is good, a wave that is blocked off by thought. Think of silence like a cure for every human ailment; medicine for physical sickness, neutrality for judgment, a oneness for separation and the quieting of the ego. When we are silent inside the true “us” is allowed to shine through…which just so happens to be all things in the universe. Without approval and disapproval we can traverse the world without hurting anyone or anything. We say the right things at the most perfect moments when we are not speaking through the ego. Without a brain full of useless thoughts we learn faster and retain more. We see opportunities open up for us that we had held ourselves back from with doubts and worries. We meet people that we never would have met before. Beyond the infinite benefits, silence is living in a world where all is as it should be. It’s the single cure~all, the sole answer for the hindrances that hold the soul back from advancement. We are silence, the state of thought is unnatural to us. It’s nothing we are learning, rather something we are remembering. We came from silence and to silence we return.
We spend so much of our thoughts trying to solve the problems that would organically disappear were we to incorporate silence into our lives. Truly it can be said that heading in the direction of silence is the single most important endeavor of man. Ironically it is the least~sought of all endeavors, but even this is part of the plan. In silence we see that all, truly, is as it should be, in every way. Once we are on the path we can’t exactly stray from it. Maybe we’ll move slower in the direction of advancement than those who do make time for silence, but we will progress nonetheless.
After living in silence for awhile I began to pull away from the polar opposites of both highs and lows; those obsessive qualities of man that are equally distasteful when the trustworthy and constant state of silence is attained. I began to see that suffering is most often due to thinking that the world isn’t as it should be; an ingrained belief that things are only right when we feel good, and that when we feel bad we have fallen away from goodness. A series of less~than~enjoyable events can build on each other until we have lost our way. But silence is a state one can return to in any situation, causing immediate relief by peeling back the layers we build up and returning to the beginning again. Once you come to rely on silence, you don’t want the manic highs anymore than you want the depressive lows. To be the tree in this image is to be silence. Pure existing, without the downfalls of thought.
The secret is to enjoy every step, and silence holds the most enjoyment we could possibly experience. We should not berate ourselves for how far from silence we have strayed because every waking moment we are choosing to walk towards it or not, depending on what is most important to learn at any given moment.
If you take anything away from this, let it be your right to choose what direction you will take. I have only briefly tasted of silence, I am no more adept at it than most. However, I can assure you that once you taste even one drop of the bliss that awaits you in silence you will do everything in your power to get more. When each breath is a gift that makes you want to cry with the joy of simply being alive, but you don’t cry because you are calm and sure and steady, you see that you were meant for silence and that your soul is forever longing to return to it.
I’ve posted a page with a short video from Eckhardt Tolle with some good advice for how to practice silence during an average day.
Let’s just…think about it. Hehe.