A silent mind? I was very far away from that as I sat in seminar after seminar at an all-day Mind Body Spirit Conference in San Francisco one sunny October day, many years ago. By the beginning of the afternoon program I was tired, irritable, and on information overload. I decided that my first afternoon session, which was scheduled for an hour and a half, would be the last, and then I would call it a day.
What a pleasant surprise I was in for. The presenter announced that we were going to sit in silence the entire time. I was overjoyed. We all settled down in our seats; the shuffling, rustling, and chair scraping calmed down; and we fell into a collective silence. The woman next to me, however, was having a hard time with the silence. I could hear her fidgeting with her papers and moving restlessly in her chair. After a while she got up and left, as many others did. I understood only too well what they were going through.
At first I sat with my mind spinning at breakneck speed through the information it had been deluged with since early morning. It was like sitting with an ongoing cacophony of sound as the mind sifted, sorted, and tried to deal with the information overload.
When we don’t give our minds time to rest we repress all the messages that are continuously pouring in. They start accumulating just like files accumulating in your in-box, like unanswered emails on your computer. And if the mind’s clutter keeps on accumulating, the stress can become overwhelming. As I sat in that room my mind rattled on with an amazing medley of thoughts about how to stuff a chicken, who to invite to dinner next week, what to wear to a party that evening, how to talk with a difficult family member, and what color the bathroom should be painted. I felt like an overstuffed chicken myself.
As I continued to sit, it took a while before the noise in my mind started to subside, and I fell into a calm, cool, delicious silence, which I could feel reaching to the very depths of my being. The rest of the session was pure delight. And the extra bonus was, when I left the seminar, I felt rejuvenated and recharged, ready for the last two seminars of the day. Sitting in silence helps bring our attention to the backdrop of silence that exists behind the mind, in between the thoughts. The silence is always there. But the mind is so loud and busy that usually we cannot hear it. Between each thought and the next is a gap of silence. It is this silence that distinguishes one thought from another. By emptying the mind of its overload, by using silence practices and expressive meditation techniques, we can learn to create more space,more silence, for creative thoughts to arise, for our inner wisdom to be heard. When the silence comes, not a single thought arises. And this is the miracle—we move from heaven to hell, from thought to no-thought.
Creating a Haven
Are you worth one minute? Sit with eyes closed. Breathe. Be present with yourself. Watch the mind with nonjudgment and compassion. Observe your thoughts as if you were watching a TV screen, creating a distance between you and the thoughts. Cherish this moment, this haven of rest in the midst of your day. Start with one minute a day, or two or three or four. Start easy. It takes time to create a habit.
Based on the book Laughter, Tears, Silence: Expressive Meditations to Calm Your Mind and Open Your Heart. Copyright © Pragito Dove 2010. You may reprint with Byline below and inform Pragito at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pragito Dove is author of Laughter, Tears, Silence: Expressive Meditations to Calm Your Mind and Open Your Heart (2010), a meditation master, keynote speaker, and trainer. Visit Pragito’s website at http://www.discovermeditation.com, email her at email@example.com or call 415.925.9533 for more information on books, cds, trainings, and workshops and to book her services.