Inner silence helps with experiencing things ‘more directly’
By Annie Katz
I’ve been considering Inner Silence as a spiritual practice, and I want to try it.
What would this Silence look like? No computers, no TV, no phone, and no car. No conversations with people, animals, or inanimate objects. No reading, writing, or mumbling to myself. No narrating my plans, beliefs, or opinions. No mental chatter. No coffee.
Allowed sounds are devotional chanting, mantras, prayers, laughing, crying, and expressions of gratitude. The intention is to settle the mind and body for one day of rest, unplugged from my normal entertainments, to cultivate inner peace, awareness, and mental clarity.
I could practice Silence regularly without inconveniencing anyone. I live alone in the country. I have no children, no dependents, no one needing me to be their primary support person. The world can go on without me for a day.
So why does the idea of practicing Silence for one day scare the hell out of me? What if someone needs my help? What if I miss something important? What if I go crazy without my normal entertainments? What if I hate what I discover about myself? What if I can’t do it?
OK, if one full day is too scary, break it down. (Baby Steps is a practice I call upon more and more as I age.) I’ll try one morning of Silence, sunrise until noon. Anyone could be quiet for six hours, right?
So tomorrow morning, Sunday morning, I intend to practice Silence.
When I described my plan to a friend on the phone, she asked if I could clean out my sock drawer. I said, “Yes, if I can do that with a peaceful mind.”
• • •
It’s Sunday afternoon, and I practiced Silence all morning. What I experienced most was a sense of spaciousness, peace, and joy.
Whenever a desire arose to do my habitual morning things, nearly all of them involving computers, reading, writing, or talking, I would remind myself that I was practicing Silence until noon. Having the specific end-time helped me return to my intention.
I took a much longer sunrise walk than normal, and besides seeing places I hadn’t seen in several months, I experienced things more directly, with less mental chatter and more present-moment awareness of the life all around me and inside me. I noticed myself slowing down and smiling. I also noticed visual noise in the form of words and numbers. While walking on quiet country roads, I saw numbers and words on road signs and in people’s yards, and all those words and numbers attracted me, even though I didn’t need them. When I turned away from the words out there, the mind supplied words and numbers, naming the plants I walked by and counting the cattle in a field. The mind seems addicted to words and numbers.
Every time I became aware of straying from my intention, I’d say to myself, “We are practicing Silence now. Thank you.” That helped restore awareness, tranquility, and joy.
When I got home from my walk, I drank water, practiced sitting meditation (longer than usual), and took my breakfast bowl outside to the porch. Hummingbirds and butterflies flew around the garden while I savored each bite of fresh melon. For a moment I missed my usual cup of coffee, but I reminded myself that I could drink coffee at noon, and the mind became peaceful again.
I spent most of the morning walking, meditating, chanting, sitting still with focused awareness, and doing a bit of yoga and qigong. (I wasn’t the least bit tempted to do household chores, so the sock drawer remains undisturbed.)
This morning’s experiment with practicing Inner Silence felt so nourishing, physically and emotionally, that I’m adding Sunday Morning Silence to my weekly schedule. Turns out practicing Silence is delightful, not scary, and I’m grateful that I was inspired to try it.
Annie Katz is a retired educator living in Ashland. She has studied philosophy and spiritual practices all her life and now writes novels for fun. Send 600– to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Richard Carey (firstname.lastname@example.org).