On the Foothills of Silence – A Practice Ancient & Modern
Sound cannot exist without silence and without sound, silence has no purpose. Silence is a vessel that contains everything from our experiences, to our thoughts, feelings to the depth of our soul. If poetry is the language of the heart, than silence is the language of the soul. All spiritual traditions around the world honor practices of silence. From convents, churches to temples silence is golden.
Some spiritual teachers convey their teachings by simply sitting in silence. A really really long time ago, over 10,000 years ago Sage Vasistha imparted knowledge to Rama (of the Ramayana) on silence. He described four types of silence: the silencing of speech, the silencing of the senses, the silencing of the mind and the silence of deep rest. The purpose of the first three is to help one get to the fourth, the silencing of deep rest, in which one experiences equanimity (evenness), and pure bliss. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a modern day spiritual leader and founder of The Art of Living Retreat center in Boone, recently shared three types of silence in a Huffington Post Blog. In parallel to Sage Vasistha, Sri Sri discusses the silence of speech, the silence of the mind and the silence of oneness. He also describes the purpose of the first two to support attaining the silence of oneness. The silence of oneness is the freedom from inner/outer noise and oneness with the whole universe!
Ok, ok if it sounds profound, difficult and complicated don’t worry. It may be hard if you attempt to try it on your own, or quit your job and run away to some cave. Fortunately, Sage Vasistha shares some practical knowledge with Rama, which is observing on-going silence is like observing an on-going fast, it is not needed. Can you imagine fasting on a continuous basis? While fasting gives some rest to our body and insight into our mind, on-going fasting won’t work out as well. Similarly, observing silence for specific periods of time, under the guidance of a professional, also known as an Art of Silence instructor can provide us the opportunity to give our entire nervous system deep rest. Much like the 60,000 mile tune up needed for a car. I’m not talking about a simple oil change people. I’m talking about the tune up that comes every 30,000 miles.
As a leadership coach, consultant, meditation instructor and continuous learner constantly looking for the latest and greatest human development approaches, I have attended a wide range of personal, self and leadership development programs. To date (which is at least a decade of exploration), the Art of Silence course has been one of the most profound and transformational. I know, I know transformational is a buzz word that everyone uses to try to describe something really cool. So here is what is transformational about the silence course, it doesn’t turn me from a caterpillar to a butterfly, or unlock the secrets of the universe and the human genome. What the silence course does is SIMPLE. That is it, it returns an overactive, continuous planning, day dreaming, occasional worrying, past/future thinking mind back to what is simple and natural, the present moment. And the other stuff, unlocking deep insights, secrets of the universe, becoming a butterfly, etc. are a byproduct—at least for some. The icing on the cake for silence courses in Boone include: sunrise yoga overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, a professional chef that makes the most delicious healthy combinations, and a high dosage of nature.
Let’s just face it modern day life in all its glory and technology is also concrete roads with long commutes, tall buildings with windows that don’t open, and chatter in meetings from dawn until dusk. And yet, after an Art of Silence program I return home with a quiet(er) mind and become a witness to all that is happening around me. I wonder what Sage Vasistha would say if he could attend an Art of Silence course. Hmmm.
How does silence contribute to your day to day life in the real world? Let us know in the comments.
If you’d like to dive into silence right now, join us for an online guided meditation.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.