When I decided to go to Vipassana, a 10 days meditation in silence, most of the people I talked about it were interested only in how I will manage all that time, so long time, in silence. Which is, in this case, also commitment to adhere the „Noble Silence“- and thus not only no words, but also no gestures, no eye contact, no looking in the face, no writing, …
So everybody was curious only about that silence.
I think this is especially because WE KNOW THE SILENCE. Thus, we we can imagine it can be hard to keep it for long time. However, in contrast to silence, many people do not know what a meditation is, so they do not even have any idea about how THIS can be difficult. And moreover, this is kind of special meditation, with no „cheating“ with repetitions of mantras, visualizations and so on. This is simply 10 days of sitting 10 hours a day.
So what can be so hard about only sitting?
You go inside yourself, to fight with your own mind, trying to tame it and to become its master and not be its servant, trying to train enough that you can use it for the technique itself, for the cleansing of your mind, but not only that superficial, conscious one, but the one that is deeper, the so-called unconscious mind, which is not unconscious at all actually, it is always vigilant, as it works and perceives feelings in the body constantly, even if we shut down the conscious mind, for example in sleep, constantly …
Do you have any idea how this can be hard before you have some experience with such a thing? NO. So that´s it. Then you can imagine only the difficulty of silence.
Since silence is part not only of Vipassana but it is the basis of many other spiritual practices and it is considered as essential, I decided to explain, why I think it is actually amazingly needed and very helpful. And I decided to write my thoughts about what I think why people are scared of silence. Maybe it can be useful for somebody to think about it in this way, and next time he can approach it with other attitude 🙂
And no, this is not going to be a short article.
Why is not the idea of 10 days in silence so stunning? Why should the silence be so difficult?
As it was something absolutely unnatural. Yes, I understand, it is just „normal“ that we communicate with each other as people, words, gestures, views. So opposite is not normal? How could we have been without words? But the difference is to exist absolutely without communication and to remain silent for some time.
It is like comparing starving and fasting for one day. Good example. Also because everybody knows that fasting one day in a week can be really healthy, but not all the people are strong enough to do it so for their own benefit. Not strong enough to break their usual habits and to go out of comfort zone. Though, those who really know it is healthy because their have already tried it (and also those who must, since they really need it for their health due to already existing health problems), those people just maintain it.
Someone is silent on a regular basis, someone can not even think about it. Every one of us is different. Why?
Because we are so beautifully unique. Only when I began to study Ayurveda, I fully understood the nature of why some people naturally have a bigger problem to be in silence. It is related to a kind of life energy they have in excess (in Ayurveda we call it dosha). So some are just simply naturally forced by this energy to constantly communicate, talk, share their current, sometimes overly fast changing feelings a emotional states. I understand that these people speak a lot, sometimes too much, and often, honesly said, ithey speak unintelligibly. It is then such a feeling that when you talk to them you have to put a lot of energy into the discussion so that you can concentrate your attention on the essence of what they are trying to say and do not let yourself be distracted by all those details and turn to less important things this person often does in his speech. They are also usually a bit noisy, since they need attention, and because they can not grasp the attention by the speech it self, they try to make it with increasing the voice … and often they suffer from anxiety. When they are alone. As well as they have to be silent.
Some people, in turn, have the ability to have a very targeted speech and let´s say, they are talking in appropriate, or medium amount. But they can talk a lot, mostly when someone asks them something (and they are very excited to explain), and their speech is somewhat with a „mastery“ – as they can express themselves very skillfully. That’s why their people usually like to listen to them if they want to learn something if they want to learn something. Their voice is usually penetrating and intrigued. They are good speakers, typical leaders. They can be silent, even for longer time, when it is needed. But they need to know why they do it so. But naturally, they need to communicate.
And finally, there are also people who do not say much. But if you say anything, it’s mostly natural, pleasant and completely out of the heart. The story they are telling or the question they giving unfold gradually, softly, step by step. Sometimes it can make others nervous that they really take their time. I do not know if I can say that this unfolding is logical, because this is more of a heart than a logic. They just know what they say, but they don´t need to say a lot, they are peaceful, sometimes a little more lazy. Their voice is mostly peaceful and pleasant to listen, too. They are spreading emotional understanding and great stability. We naturally like to come to talk with these people when we really need to consult something, personal and emotional. But if they do not have to, they do not talk much.
So we communicate in different ways and we feel a need to communicate to a different degree. Therefore, for someone the silence might be easier, for someone harder and it is absolutely natural, it comes from how they have been created.
But this is not just about whether someone just likes to talk or not… what does the mind think about it?
It is necessary to realize the enormous interconnection between the mind and the verbal expression, just as everything in the body is connected with the mind – body movements, diseases, … The way of expression, the content of speech, all of this speaks of what the mind is, naturally. If the mind is restless, speech is restless, too. On the contrary, a peaceful mind is automatically recognizable by a peaceful expression.
And what I want to point out here is that we can turn this also around – if we calm down the speech, we CAN calm down our mind. That’s why we’re silent on Vipassana. We’re silent to help our mind to become silent. I purposely wrote „we can“, because I know it is not the only thing required to get the goal. But it is the essential beginning.
The silence is there FOR YOU.
Some will only fully understand this when they experience it, some will never understand, because they are not willing to go beyond their habits, and some know this well already when they’re going to that course – that this silence is there only and only for your own benefit. For your protection. Therefore, one does not need to take it as a challenge, as something to fight with. But on the contrary, it is good to use it as a tool to help you better fight with „bad guy“.
The main help of silence is to limit the amount of information you need to assess with your mind. If we limit our talking, we thus ease the work of the mind from which we want to be concentrated on something else.
At the same time, one of the rules that must be obeyed in Vipassana, is the promise that you will not be lying (because morality is one of the three pillars of Vipassana). And how best to avoid lying, when even exaggeration or subtle misinterpretation can be considered as a lie? It’s best just not say anything.
What information do we actually feed our minds?
Try to think about your words, try to observe this at least for one day. What are you talking about with people, unknown, familiar, family. What information do you exchange? How much of this is really an essential information that needs to be told? And how many of these are just words that could easily be deleted and you could survive the day without them.
Why should you cut them off? Keep an eye on how many times you are thinking and feeding your mind with the information, about which you then need to think about, analyze it. How many times you compare yourself with others, you judge them only because someone has told you something and you analyze his words? Do you need all this to survive? And don´t you feel that the day is going so fast? So fast, because every one second your head is immersed in a huge process of information … that you do not really need.
Be happy to be in your bubble.
I know that in your normal life, of course, you are interested in how your family is, you are interested in information from your loved ones, your friends, your surroundings. But if you are going to meditate and your goal is to concentrate on yourself, do you really need to listen to the experiences of other people? Do you really need to feed your mind with others? Don´t you have enough of your own worries in your mind? Meditation is not easy and the more your mind is disturbed by the influx of information, the harder it, naturally, is … the silence is there to protect you on your way so that you can concentrate only on what is going on in you. So keep focusing only on yourself! How many times in your life you really could afford to be totally disconnected from outer world so you could focus only on your inner world?
The silence, so you can´t compare yourself.
Because if someone tells you that he had a feeling of vibration and a tickling electric current in his body during meditation, and you are still hours and hours in pain in your knees, in your back (you are sitting 10hours a day…), how do you react? You may say, „Why don´t I have electrical current in the body? Why am I suffering with pain here and he is experiencing ecstasy?“ Ok, you may even realize that each of us is different, everyone has accumulated other blockades, other problems, which are coming on the surface in form of different sensations, so we can not compare the sensations… but your subconscious mind can react differently, classically, with aversion or desire. And these unconscious reactions are actually just what you are trying to remove in this meditation! So if you do not have this part of your mind trained enough yet, you do not have that precious time of a few milliseconds between receiving the information and your decision how to respond to it, you still can´t filter all this with peace when confronted with this information. So let´s rather protect yourself. With the silence.
Then you will realize that during those ten days of silence, you still do not have the silence.
It can be surprising for someone to start hearing some voice in his minds. No, you’re not a fool if you hear it. You were just always listening so much to the world outside, that you have never listened to what you have inside. And so you do there hours and hours of dialogues with your own mind, or if you want, with an ego. Surprisingly, after some time you may find that this voice is not actually fully you. And that is good. You find that you are starting to take a position of an observer and you just watch it. You realize you don´t need to be a part of these discussions. You just observe it.
Meanwhile, you are trying to calm your mind, you calmly ask it to come back every time it jumps out, back to watching your breath as this is want you to focus on. Finally, even if it takes days, sometimes weeks, some years, at last (maybe) you will come to the moment when your mind will become still. And a feeling of bliss comes. From such a simple thing – out of silence. Your mind can finally relax, it’s a relief, and since it no longer takes so much energy, suddenly you feel an excess of energy flowing through the body … This state of control of the mind is called Samadhi.
So empty silence. As in the universe. Only subtle cosmic buzz.
But do not let yourself be fooled by this ecstatic feeling. Just as silence is not the purpose of the Vipassana, as it is only part of it, a help tool – so the silence of the mind, control of the mind, is far from being the aim of meditation. Just as silence is a tool that helps you on your way in meditation, mind control is just a tool for real work, which is waiting fir you to be done in Vipassana meditation. With ability to control it, you will begin to use the mind for what it was created – as a unique and effective tool for analyzing what you need to solve. In Vipassana it is used to observe feelings in the body and keep equanimous with them. If your mind is not jumping like a monkey any more, you can use it effectively and in fully concentrated way.
The mind is a good servant, but a very bad master.
We think how brilliantly we control our minds. And most of the time it actually controls us. Maybe we can not imagine why we should try to control it and silence it, since we think how it helps us every day to survive. But, this all is because we can not imagine how the world looks like when you are actually THERE once. We all think we are aware. But we are just not aware, that we can´t see how much unaware we are. So the same, we think we use our minds brilliantly. But we actually can not even imagine what it is like to have the mind really effective if it is not disturbed by unnecessary thoughts and it can be focused on observation and understanding what really is around us, the truth around us.
In the history of mankind, the greatest inventions and the greatest geniuses have something in common. The greatest discoveries have always happened in the state of meditation, sometimes it seemed as accidental. While observing nature and accepting the truth, as is it. Accepting the unknown, and not while thinking about the known.
Perhaps after 10 days it may happen something you would not have expected before.
Maybe at a time when you are allowed to talk again, you will feel a strange feeling that you do not want to talk as much as you did before. If you apply the principle of Vipassana not only when meditating with crossed legs, but in everything you do and how you do it, you will be aware of every activity. You will observe your words and perceive their true value. You will choose more sensitively because your mind is already much more sensitive, focused and peaceful now. You will also understand that you do not need to compare with others, you do not need to compare the feelings and sensations you had within meditation. You already know that any sensation in meditation has a character of impermanence – as it has arised, it is bound to pass away. So why to be bothered by them? Types of feelings are absolutely irrelevant, whether they are ecstatic vibrations, pain or irritation, or feelings of heat, just anything … the only significant thing is whether you keep your equanimity and you will not react to any of your feelings by aversion or desire.
And so when everyone starts talking, you can easily observe who has learned anything.
You can observe people whether they share their feeling about the work, the perception of change, the happiness they got from all of this, or to which extent they still identify themselves with the sensations they were experiencing and continue to stick „I like“, „I do not like“ labels . And if they still stick these labels, you can observe and really know how much of that information really is irrelevant. But do not judge, because when you look back on yourself in your life before, you may find that even 90% of what you used to say a day before were also things … utterly unnecessary.
We speak all these words, because we have been taught to dalways describe the world around us.
We speak to them because we like to name things, objects, events, problems. But especially, we really like to give them these labels „good“, „bad“, „I like“, „I do not like“. We think things really are good and bad. We speak all those words because we are looking for the cause of everything in the world outside. And not in yourself. We do not understand that things are good and bad only because we react like this to them. We react with aversion when there is something we do not want to be happening to us. And we respond with a desire for the things we want to be happened. And if it not happening like this, we feel we suffer. Well, when you come to see that there is this world in you, and that everything going on outside is just a manifestation of what’s going on in your world inside, and you really know how to change how you react when you start listening to it and learn how to communicate with it, then, you will just become still. Because in this world the words are useless. And you can only communicate with it if you are silent.
That´s why it is so good to do such course in silence.
Not only in Vipassana, but also in some of the other courses I have gone through in India (eg the Basics of Buddhism at the Root Institute of Wisdom Culture, …), and I also know that in many courses I have heard about (eg Tushite – the center of Tibetan Buddhism, ..) is required from students to keep silence. Also in Ashrams. When not „noble silence“ so at least normal silence, no words, but not only those said, but also those through social networks. Because it’s good for you that you are not disturbed so much by the surrounding world, you can better focus on what you want to do in that course. Often there is no one to check you whether you keep silence. You check yourself, by your own will. How seriously do you take that thing you came to on? And how seriously do you want to use your time? Do you really want to dive into it or just write down the name of the course and put it to the list of others you have done so far?
I like the silence.
And I also liked it also before Vipassana. I knew naturally even before, that this is an opportunity to be more connected with myself. I think, that first of all, you must always be happy even if you are alone. If you can not be calm when you are with yourself, you will not be peaceful even in the presence of anyone else. If you feel nervous when you yourself, when you are silent for a while, ask yourself „why?“. Do you have any problem with yourself?
Once in your life, you realize that you really are alone.
I don´t mean lonely, but alone. There is no one with the same energy you have – so you are alone like this. And there is no one who will ever be with you. In addition, in life you will always be on the most important things only by yourself. These moments are usually mistakenly regarded as moments of weakness because we feel so weak, without someone we could use as our support, or, honestly, lay part of our burden on them. „Problem? No worries, I have a family, they will take care of it, or I I have a partner who will take care of it.“ But how strongly you will fight when there is nobody else there to help you? Fully. So these moments are actually, on the contrary, moments when you can see your greatest strength. Even at death you will be alone, as you do not take anybody with you, and as well, you do not die for the other to go with him.
I read an interesting book from Osho – „Courage, the joy of living dangerously.“ It was very nice to described there, that what the courage really is . It’s not being fearless, exposing yourself to unreasonable and purposed risks … but it’s the ability to be peaceful when you have no control over the world (and you will never be able to fully control it), when you do not know what it is going to happen, but you accept it. Because you know you will be able handle it. Let anything happen, let them bring you into any country, any place, you will just somehow take care of yourself, you will handle it. And, you can do it alone.
(I read this book just in the time when I was climbing on Stok Kangri, India’s highest accessible mountain, with more than 6,000 meters, and as this book came to me „by accident“, I let it travel to the world further by accident. I created a FB’s page so we can watch where it’s going to wander.)
So to which extent you are satisfied with yourself?
To which extend you are really calm that you will manage it by your own? To which extend is the fear from silence just a fear to be alone.
Fear that you will be alone = fear that you will be with yourself?
Do you really want to wait for someone who will take your hand and lead you? A who should this person be? To which extend you have courage that you really can manage everything by your own?
Maybe you will once realize, that in all of these moments, when you are fully with yourself, you believe in yourself… you are silent.
It doesn´t matter whether you are writing and exam, or you are deciding on which boulder you will step when you are climbing a mountain… it can be anything. But you are always silent, because the words are not necessary. You are not asking someone about his opinion, you are not asking him what he would do, you don´t think about what your boss, or partner, or neighbor will think about it. You just ask yourself. And you act.
Meditation without words.
Someone can have a feeling, that he doesn´t have a time in his life for such a thing as a meditation. Well, I don´t have anything against this opinion, it´s his choice. But if you realize what it can bring to you, you will now that it is important for you. And even if you know it is good but you are still looking for excuses – „I don´t have good environment, today I can´t because I am traveling, today I am too upset for doing it“, well, then you are not hungry for it enough. I know, I was not hungry enough neither. But now I really am.
But also, it is good to understand, that meditation is not only while sitting in perfect lotus posture, hands on knee, still like Budha statue. No, meditation can be in every moment in your life, when you switch of your mind, you are fully concentrated on doing something and you really enjoy it. It can be playing the drums, painting, it can be dance, sport. The full concentration during all of these has something in common – no words. Even singing is meditation. Because it is not your mind speaking, but the words are being said by your heart.
This is why I travel alone.
Because I can be silent. I haven´t started this journey just to make nice pictures in nice places. And especially not in India. Something was calling me to India, some urge that I need to give time only to myself. Yoga, Ayurveda, and mostly – meditation. So I meditate here in silence. One could ask me – how, please how, how you can be silent or in silence in India? Well, you might be surprised. There is a lot of noise everywhere around, but this noise doesn´t need to bother me. Scooties are horning to give signal they are approaching, that ´s all, no other information involved in it. Not like a signal, that you are an idiot on a road, like people in Europe usually like to give. And yes, people are shouting on They will not get offended if you just silently walk away. Here, you just don´t need to take anything personally. This is why I can be in quiet. And if I need not only inner silence but also outer on, I´ll accommodate in ashram, I´ll go to silence course. or even better – I´ll go the mountains.
That´s why I walk alone in the mountains.
You don´t need any words to communicate with the nature.I meditate. Inhale, exhale. Step. Up there, above 4500 meters, is very thin air. And mostly, just like oxygen, so the signal of telephone networks stayed in lower altitudes in valleys. Away from problems, away from information, away from words. Without contact. Without bad feeling, that I am not replying to messages on social networks INSTANTLY. Of course I want to know how my family is, how my friends are, but up there I feel relieve from all the words.
Up there, the sky is colored in cosmic blue, because I am so close to the universe here. And the color of in is not changed by the gray and white color of clouds, pollution, anything.
So is it with the silence.
You are so far away from everything and so close to the universe, that you can actually hear its silence. Only a subtle buzz of universe. Surprisingly the same buzz, which you can discover in yourself.
Why the same? Because once you may really understand, what does it mean, that the whole universe surrounding you is just a projection of your own mind.
But you will never find out this, until you start to be silent.
And Vipassana can lead you to understanding of the silence.