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Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm

Topic:   Mind
Author: Swami Sivananda   DATE: Nov 7, 2015   Comments: 0

Articles by Swami Sitaramananda

How to Practice Silence and Introspection

How to Practice Silence and Introspection

Many of us are in the throes of surviving and somehow getting through our day… we have bosses, baby-sitters, traffic, bills, spouses, in-laws to manage.  Our day starts with a to-do list of mundane items like “Buy Milk”, “Fill gas”, “Pay rent”. The more ticks we have on our list, the more we feel that we are adding value. The same routine follows day after day, week after week. Years roll on and the opportunity for a deeper life is wasted.  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.

Physical Benefits

  • 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.

Mental Benefits

  • 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 in to 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.

Spiritual Benefits

  • 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 speech energy becomes transmuted into spiritual energy (Ojas).

Swami Sivananda said that Silence allows serious students to do self-analysis (Find out the nature of your mind-patterns vrittis and which quality is dominant in the mind at a certain moment – sattwa -pure and calm, tamas - lethargic and lazy, or rajas - restless). It allows the practice of self-reliance: rely on yourself alone. You are your own redeemer and savior even though spiritual books and Gurus can show the path and guide you. In reality nobody can give you self-realization (Moksha). You will have to tread the spiritual path step by step by yourself.  It helps you to self-determine (Make a strong self-determination, "I will realize the Self.") 

Practice an Hour of Silence Every Day

Swami Sivananda suggests that a vow of silence (Mouna) must be practiced once a week.  

  1. Schedule an hour of silence at a particular time every day.
  2. For that hour turn off the phone, TV, music and computer. Put down all books and other reading material.
  3. Light a candle to be a witness to your hour of silence.
  4. Sit quietly and rest—or engage in work that does not require your vocal, visual and auditory senses. Gentle housekeeping or gardening is excellent activities of silence, or a long walk in nature.
  5. Listen to the silence, all the time enjoying this hour-long respite from thinking, reviewing, planning, and imagining. Stay in the present moment.
  6. Breathe deeply and mindfully, bringing in the silence and expelling mental “noise.”
  7. At the end of your hour of silence, let your first word be an expression of gratitude or love; then put out the candle and go about your business.

Some Helpful Advice from Swami Sivananda when Observing Silence 

  • In the beginning, when you observe Mouna, you will find some difficulty. There will be a severe attack of thought patterns (verities) the moment you just sit quiet.  Various kinds of thoughts will arise and force you to break the silence. There are all vain imaginations and deceptions of the mind. Concentrate all energies on a divine name (mantra) will help. Make the mind fully occupied. The desire for talk and company will die. You will get peace.
  • When you take a vow of silence do your best not to assert from within, 'I won't talk'. This will produce agitation in the mind, because the mind wants to be heard. Simply make a determination and then remain quiet. Attend to other affairs. Do not be thinking always, 'I won't talk, I won't talk.'
  • For serious spiritual students, keep a record of your progress (spiritual daily diary) to help watching the mind.
  • If it is distracted, you must remove the distracting causes one by one with patience and vigilance by suitable methods. 

So, next time, someone asks you what are your plans for the evening, proudly state… “I plan to spend time in the company of myself, in silence!” 

(Excerpt from Swami Sivananda teaching) 

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