The farther you pull back on an arrow, the farther the arrow will go when it’s released. We humans are no different. To go further on the spiritual journey, we need to withdraw from all the senses and sense objects and sit in the cave of our hearts…in silence.
Why do you need silence in your practice?
You may have particular spiritual practices that include meditation or personal mantras that you perform every day. Adding a vow of silence adds a unique dimension and gives your practices more depth, making them juicier and more absorptive.
Silence for growing in the practice.
Silence is like the fuel in your car that you need to get from point A to point B. Without fuel, your car will not move. Similarly, without silence, you may soon feel you are not growing in your practice or that you are stuck.
Enjoy the practice instead of turning it into a chore.
I can almost hear many of you saying ‘YES! That is exactly what I needed help with.’ When meditating begins to resemble another chore you have forced yourself into, that is a sign to go back to silence. The time you spend with yourself reinvigorates you and enlivens the context of why you do what you do. You can enjoy your practice more with an experience of a reasonably long period of silence.
Stop the chattering mind.
Ideally, spiritual practices should help stop the constantly chattering mind. But over time—as stress and other emotional toxins collect in the mind-body complex—daily practices may need a booster like avowed silence to continue to be as effective in purging the mind of negativity and stress we accumulate throughout the day.
Knowing the practitioner.
Ancient texts talk about one of the tendencies of the mind to get stuck in doership. Sometimes, we unknowingly develop a sense of subtle arrogance concerning our practices when we have been doing them for too long. This sense of misplaced achievement and pride can keep us stuck in maya or the illusion of being a ‘sincere practitioner.’
The illusion of practices can be even more difficult to get past in comparison to illusions of the tangible world. But if the ultimate idea of enlightenment is to drop ALL identities and labels for liberation, then this illusion of being the doer must also be given up. And that can happen only in silence.
Be creative and free.
Silence purges deep karmic impressions that daily practices alone do not give you access to. These may be the deeper thoughts that nevertheless do not serve your evolutionary cause anymore. Silence empties you and creates space for creativity, joy, purity, and innovation to dawn. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Art of Living founder and global spiritual master, says silence is the mother of creativity.
This silence can be hard to practice or nurture at home without guidance or an atmosphere conducive to it while living in the thick of things—work, family, socializing, digital activity, etc. But it’s important. Make the effort and if you can’t seem to find the space, consider attending a silent or meditation retreat that aims at helping you deepen your practice and develop a profound bond with it.
Vow of Silence
In a silent retreat, participants take a vow of silence for 3–4 days based on the length or duration of the program. A vow of silence entails
- No speech or communication through any medium for a given period
- No writing or reading
- No looking in the mirror
- No gestures or greetings to fellow participants or staff.
Silence from no spoken words leads you to silence on two other levels that Gurudev talks about:
“The second is the silence of stillness. This is the silence inside us that is detached from the noise in the world. Silence is disinterestedness in activity, an inward journey of the mind. This inner stillness is very important if we want to understand and grow spiritually. Inner silence frees us from the noise of the world.
And finally, there is the silence of Oneness with the entire universe. Oneness is the goal of silent practice. Whatever knowledge we study and understand with our intellect is limited. The knowledge that we gain by effort is imminent. The knowledge which is gained through effortlessness, through silence and intuition, is transcendental.”
How to keep the vow of silence?
The biggest challenge to maintaining a vow of silence is the concept that silence feels unfamiliar or alien or your belief that you may not be able to stick to such a vow because you are so used to communicating all the time. But know that silence is not alien to us.
If you observe, silence sits at the peak of every emotion experienced. Whether you are sad, seething in anger, or grieving, your natural instinct is to resort to silence. This is because it gives strength and relief at the same time. Accepting silence as part of your nature will make it easy to keep good silence.
Tools to guide you through the vow of silence.
To sink into the depth of silence, you need to bring your monkey minds to the present moment and put your worries, desires, and ambitions aside. That can be easier said than done. If you cannot do this on your own, a silent retreat is designed to include several guided meditations and yoga sessions to help you gradually settle the mind into the moment. Only then can you dive deep into the magnificent space of silence within and without.