We live in a world of noise. The noise of unnecessary speech, the ringing and pinging of our devices, the noise of harsh music and inane commercials and programs on TV. The humming of the heater or air conditioner or other appliances are forever moaning in the background, and the sounds of cars, motorcycles, busses and trucks are ever present when we move from one place to another. Our minds are addicted to a steady stream of stimulation and are accepting of invasive and loud noises for large parts of the day. This is not our natural state of being. Even when we have opportunities for quiet we look around for how to fill the “emptiness”. In our mechanized, digitized, sensationalized, information world of today, we allow constant noise to invade our space and now are so used to it that it feels natural and frankly, necessary. This way of life is not the norm and it succeeds in separating us from nature and from our own nature. The constant need to have our attention focused outward prevents us from going inward. Even sitting to read a book has become impossible for many because it is too quiet, and takes too much patience.
The most healthy, healing and loving place that exists for all of us is deep within; that place of 'peace beyond all understanding' that is eternal. How do we live from that space if we're always so busy covering it up with noise?
If you are willing to take the ‘plunge’ into Mouna, or silence, you are opening up your mind and heart to an inner world that you may not even realize exists. The practice of Mouna can bring a level of healing and self help into your life that reaches deep inside and changes you from the inside out. This is because when you are in silence you are literally existing differently. You're doing and being in a way that is conscious and mindful. You are giving yourself the space to ‘create space’, to understand yourself and to make changes that may be necessary. You make room for clarity and openness of heart. To spend time with yourself, without judgments or filters or expiration dates creates a softening and opening that leads to deep self awareness. It's one of the simplest things you can do, but it's not easy. It requires patience and deliberate commitment. Yet there are few practices in life more rewarding.
Swami Sitaramananda, my teacher, tells us that:
“We are constantly doing and do not allow ourselves to be silent and to build a relationship with ourselves. There is extensive scientific research showing that silence is essential to our health and well-being.”
- Loud noises over 30 decibels increase high anxiety, stress and blood pressure. Silence lowers blood pressure and allows us to deal with life’s challenges in a better way.
- Silence is an immunity booster… it helps our body fight off invading bacteria and other pathogens.
- Silence lowers blood cortisol and adrenaline levels… adding 30 minutes of silence a day can change your life.
- Silence allows for hormone regulation and interaction of the entire hormone related systems within our body.
- Silence keeps plaque from forming in our arteries… and thus helping to prevent cardiovascular disease and strokes.
- Silence makes us look and feel younger and at the same time have a lot more energy.
- Silence recharges our mind. While sleep reboots the mind, silence recharges it.
- Silence allows us to get grounded, when too many things around us are moving constantly. It helps to calm the emotions down, detach from the situation and make wise decisions.
- Silence allows us to get out of our survival and reactive mode of living and thinking and into a deeper and more fulfilling mode.
- It is a tool for contemplation and meditation. It is meditation itself. To quiet the mind we have to get it to stop talking… and for that we have to practice being silent first. In starting with silencing our body, specifically, our organ of speech, the mind will follow suit.
- It allows us to be the witness of our own mind. When we introspect by being alone in solitude or retiring into a calm room for an hour, sitting quiet in a room alone, with closed eyes and watch the activities of the mind, we begin to get a glimpse of who we really are, our real goals, dreams, and ambitions. It is like revealing the glory of the sun after the clouds covering it dissipate. Calming our mind removes the thoughts (clouds), and the spirit; our Higher Self can then shine through.
- Silence makes us happy. Spending time in silence boosts brain chemistry… and increases our ability to concentrate.
- Silence makes us appreciate life, connect with our Higher Spirit, and be more centered.
- Silence gives us space and inspiration to ask ourselves profound questions like “who am I?” “what is the purpose of my life?” to “practice gratitude" . We could live our entire life without ever having the time or mindset to even try to understand who we are, why we are here, what is God’s plan for us, what is our life purpose, and are we living our life according to God’s intention?
- Considerable peace follows a period of silence. The energy we’ve saved from not speaking becomes transmuted into spiritual energy (Ojas).
One way to begin a practice of Mouna is to practice silent meditation. Silent meditation is a gateway into a very deep state of consciousness. As you get more accustomed to being in silence through meditation, you can elongate these periods of silence, beginning with an hour of conscious silence and move to a half of a day and perhaps even choose to have a whole day in silence where you don’t speak and you remain peaceful the entire day. Here I will explain to you briefly how to begin with silent meditation.
Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit, calm your body and breath, and go within. It's ok if the mind wanders- don't get frustrated or critical of yourself. This is what the mind does- that's it's job! Your job is to learn to focus the mind however you feel comfortable which may be to actually witness your thoughts and just be with them. You can also choose to watch your breath or focus on a mantra or an affirmation.
Ohm or Aum is the universal mantra and if you choose to focus on a mantra in your head, this is always available to you. Inhale ohm, exhale ohm. Sohum is another widely used mantra mimicking the sound of the breath. When used for meditation, "Sohum" acts as a natural guide to one's breathing pattern, to help achieve deep breath, and to gain concentration. Sooooo... is the sound of inhalation, and is remembered in the mind along with that inhalation and Hummmm... is the sound of exhalation, and is remembered in the mind along with that exhalation.
The meaning of Sohum is: 'I am that.... reinforcing the infinite nature of our soul and the non-necessity to label ourselves as something in particular, such as I am mother, I am worker, I am woman.
You can also repeat a mantra of affirmation such as: I see clearly, I am health, I am abundance. Make sure that this type of mantra is in the present sense- not in the future such as; I will be healthy... Otherwise your focus will always remain in the future!
Another way to focus and calm the mind is to bring your attention to the 'third eye' located slightly above the space between the eyebrows and inside the skull towards the center of the brain. The third eye is thought to be the seat of consciousness, and your connection to your intuition, higher thinking, and voice of wisdom. It is also the portal to dream states.
Once you feel completely relaxed and can go deeper, let go of the mantra or focus and let your mind and heart be free to move deeper in silence. Practice for perhaps 10 minutes at first and work your way up to an hour.