Try this: Just sit and think for an hour. Really, do nothing else, but just sit and think and you will find that you are so tired. We do not realize how tiring and draining mental activity alone can be. When we get physically tired, we can sleep it off to let go of the tiredness, but when our mind is tired, our go-to is usually entertainment, which drains the subconscious even further instead of unburdening you.
An ancient answer to give your mind, body, and soul real meaningful rest is going into the cave of your heart from time to time, through the tool of mauna—silence of the mind.
Any practice you do for your body, especially yogasanas, ideally should take you to a place of silence within—even if only for a few minutes—for your daily practice to be successful. When you add the power of pranayamas, or breathwork, to this routine, the silence gains even more strength. The idea is not to get into the postures, do some breathing, and walk out with the yoga mat, but rather the postures and breathing practices are preparation for an effortless meditative silence.
Like the taste of silence you experience every day for a few minutes? Take a deeper dive by signing up for a silent retreat. The practice of mouna is now a popular part of many yoga and meditation retreats.
Three Types of Silence
Art of Living founder and spiritual leader, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, beautifully expounds on three types of silence.
“The first is the silence where there is no talking.” He says. “This is very beneficial for people just to be aware of what they are saying and how much energy they spend talking. 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—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.”
Why do we need mauna from time to time?
We usually go into a shell of silence when something unpleasant happens, some harsh words are spoken, or things do not go our way. And though such silence can help regain perspective, it is inferior to mauna, a state of mindful and joyful silence.
Stop the chattering mind. A simple answer to why you need mauna is that it can put an end to the chattering mind, recharge your spiritual batteries, and help you regain clarity of thought. The barrage of information you wade through every day at work and home, the number of decisions you need to make daily based on this information, and the resulting stress that builds up in your body-mind complex can slow you down. It is like when the data stored on your laptop is reaching its storage limits and it slows down the processor.
A few days of silence helps clear out the karmic impressions that no longer support your spiritual growth. This empties you to create space for creativity, joy, purity, and innovation to dawn in you. In the words of Gurudev—silence is the mother of creativity.
Knowing who you are. We have an idea of ourselves and often this idea is relative or dependent on events and people outside of us. You need silence, to find the real answers to who you are, beyond the crowd of opinions, likes, dislikes, beliefs, perceptions and biases, that of yours and others. Going through a period of mindful silence can get you closer to your higher self, one that you truly are.
You cannot manage your mind from the level of the mind. You will see that you cannot silence your mind by just making affirmations like ‘I am silent’ or ‘my mind is empty and quiet.’ They usually do not work because the truth is, you cannot handle the mind from the level of the mind alone. Your mind has a tendency to rebel. The moment you tell yourself you are going to be in silence, your mind shifts into overdrive. In the beginning, it can seem like quite a task not speaking or communicating with others, because we are so used to their company. Because of this, silence retreats are structured in a way that through the powerful processes and meditations your mind is guided, rather goaded, through the myriad of worries, doubts, and conversations it has with itself, to a space of effortless silence.
Being with yourself. You cannot give from an empty cup. We rarely just sit with ourselves and process our emotions and needs. We might be holding on to anger, anxiety, and sadness, and not know what to do with them or how to rid our precious minds of them. Look at silence as an opportunity to authentically connect with yourself, and let go of what does not serve you. Give yourself a smile, for no reason. Become a witness to the effulgent being that you are.
Source of intuition. Mauna gives you tremendous inner strength and the answers that come from the silence are life-supporting in the long run. You will see that answers emerging from within the space of silence empower you to not drown in the cacophony of relative and limiting thoughts and perceptions.
Sleep versus silence. Many believe they get the required rest from their sleep, and so do not feel the need to meditate. Gurudev explains that when we sleep our body gets rejuvenated, it grows and cells multiply and there is a lot of activity on the physical level. In meditation, however, our body slows down and metabolism, which was high during your sleep, gets rest. As the body calms down, the mind follows suit. “And then intelligence awakens. Since meditation rejuvenates the body and mind at the same time, you feel energetic. Silence brings you back home, and it gives you that much-needed energy to realize who you are, to realize that there is bliss, there is beauty, there is joy, and that is You.”