• Ranganath Iyengar

Infinite Silence


10th July 2016. Silence day@Meherabad.

For the last 24 hours, as I write this note, I have not spoken as part of my commitment to Silence day which commemorates the day when Avatar Meher Baba began his Silence and remained silent until his passing forty four years later to emphasize that mere words mean nothing unless we are prepared to live by them.

As I arrived here, I was also reminded about Mahatma Gandhi, who used to observe silence every Monday. I was intrigued by what silence can do to me and also fascinated by the phenomenon of observing several people around me committed to being silent.

This note is about a few personal insights yesterday and today. I also heard the phrase Infinite Silence yesterday and decided to explore what it could mean.

External vs. Internal silence - As human beings, our senses and our random thoughts engage our mind and body both externally and internally – in addition we also continue to occasionally engage our subconscious mind which often throws in memories and triggers some ‘Aha’ moments when we are able to connect the dots.

Partial silence - When we go silent externally, we close off some of our ‘sense channels’ and thus we experience ‘partial silence’ usually experienced during meditation also. As we remain silent longer, the subconscious mind becomes more active which is why random thoughts and patterns are still presented to us as visuals or sounds or other metaphors. So, at this level we are perhaps still experiencing only ‘external silence’ as we experience ‘noise’ within.

Towards complete silence – We experience complete silence only when the internal ‘noise’ starts to reduce and this is possible only with extended periods of silence during which can start disengaging the subconscious mind as we have lesser information to process. This ‘slowing down’ bring clarity to the mind and also helps clear up residual clutter as well.

Sleep and silence - One of the ways we rejuvenate ourselves naturally is by sleeping – while the recommended period is 8 hours, we barely manage 5-6 hours. Given our super busy lifestyles, even the sleep is not silent and has a lot of residual ‘noise’. Some of us try weekend catch up on sleep which may be counterproductive. So the question here, “sleep to achieve silence” or “be awake and be silent”? While sleep is a part of natural rejuvenation, periods of silence when being awake can be equally restful. Interestingly if you study medical science, the body heals and detoxifies your blood when you are asleep!

Silence and Balance – In a period of extended silence, the state we experience is a balance of silence both externally and internally even if we discount our unconscious mind being still active. It is at this stage we truly start connecting / moving towards a state of higher consciousness. We also become aware of our inner being and experience an ‘awakened’ state within.

Silence and refreshing our spirit - When we sleep, for some parts of our sleep cycle, we go into a deep sleep (REM sleep) or experience a much deeper trance similar to a coma – at this stage, our ‘unconscious’ mind becomes active. Perhaps this where we begin to transcend into ‘deeper silence’ and truly connect with our spirit. Practioners will tell you that this can this be achieved through meditation, silence or other forms of disengaging one-self for longer periods.

Silence and Emotions - In my personal experience, our life experiences are shaped mostly by our emotions influencing the actions so in a manner of speaking our emotional intelligence often takes control of the outcome. Many time repeated patterns of emotions and situations hardwire us and create our belief system and shape our personality. Medical science can interpret these as body chemistry changes and health condition. Spiritually speaking, we also call these as ‘impressions’ on our soul also called as karma.

Trigger to silence - Life does not have constant patterns so the general reaction we have is to either “chill out” or go very quiet when we feel stressed, overwhelmed or overcome with other emotions. It is said that we have five basic emotions - the rest are all perhaps combinations of these. What I would like to us to examine here is that is observing silence a better way to “chill out” rather than indulgences, intoxicants or therapies? The best part it costs nothing but your time.

Keeping silent everyday - So in an everyday context, keeping silent for some time is a good way to do begin the journey – call it meditation if you will but the basic experience of learning to switch off our senses and ‘observe and let go’ if not stop our thoughts – this itself can be quite a challenge. If we are able to commit to do this perhaps for an hour every day at the same time, I consider that as a first milestone. At work, short moments of silence (5-10 minutes?) will work wonders when faced with challenges.

Silence as powerful self-engagement - Extended periods or silence such as what I experienced today on a regular basis can be quite therapeutic, reassuring as well as help condition the mind in terms of strengthening it or helping us reflect or sort out stuff in our mind or perhaps just emptying the mind from a lot of unwanted residual memory clutter. The best part is that there is no ritual here – just a quiet place with no disturbance for the time you want to remain silent.

Silence is simple – no technique! - The wonderful part about silence is that there is no ‘structure’ for being silent and we can be awake and even keep doing small activities that do not engage the mind or senses.

Silence refreshes our spirit – well since deep silence disengages us from most internal and external stimuli as well as helps us let go, we reduce the impressions that we have formed as we reflect, learn and move on. Good for the brain and great for the spirit!

Defining Infinite Silence – I am not quite sure if I have an accurate interpretation of Infinite Silence – however the closest I can define is our ability to find ‘moments of silence’ and use this space to achieve inner balance and also truly reach out to our spirit and acknowledge and energise our deepest inner world and our connect into the universe.

In summary – Infinite silence is timeless and ageless. The best example I can give of Infinite silence is that of ‘God’ who truly personifies Infinite Silence as many of us pursuing god realization would have experienced. Many a time words are merely heard and forgotten as we pursue meaningless rituals towards our chosen path. While, book knowledge is useful, self-engagement requires intense commitment and a complete value system to drop everything we know and look beyond – such is the experience during Silence. Only when you truly engage with yourself in silence do you perhaps discover the true meaning of ‘Your Life and Your Truth’.


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