The sound of silence!

It has all gone a bit foggy out there these last few days and while on the one hand it feels damp and claustrophobic what with not being able to see the bigger picture, on the other hand it is so nice not hearing aeroplanes flying overhead!!

There is something so incredibly wonderful about silence. Life has been busy recently, with constant chatter and people in the house and today I am enjoying the opportunity to potter between sessions and just enjoy my own quiet tidy space! Of course it is not really that quiet, the back door is open and I can hear the birds in the garden and here beside me the cat licking herself (but she should settle soon!) and then the fog horn, reminding me that it is so rare to experience total silence.

I came across this wonderful quote yesterday, which reminded me of the importance of sometimes sitting with others in silence, "Silence is just another way of communicating feelings, a space for words and thoughts to gather.” So true! In Yoga we call this "Mouna", literally silence derived from the Sanskrit root "mun", which means to measure.

It is said that silence is God, the living force, the only reality, the soul, peace, strength, goal, aim and purpose of our existence. It is not only about not talking, but also about having more control over the expression of the senses. Mouna is a way to measure and observe the input and output of the senses as a way to obtain inner silence - essentially to achieve mouna of the mind.

It is said that through silence the brain and nerves are soothed and meditation becomes easier. Silence helps to develop will power, strengthens resolves, gives peace of mind, makes it easier to speak the truth and gives control over the speech. Furthermore it is understood to help to control anger, irritability and the emotions and is useful for physical and mental healing encouraging serenity, calmness and inner spiritual strength.

It is recommended that we should spend one week a year in complete solitude, staying in one place, not interacting with anybody and living a simple life. However while many live like this in monasteries their whole lives, it is slightly more challenging for the rest of us and for some almost impossible, not least in timings but simply because it can be incredibly confronting being faced with the concept of a life lived in silence!

I have attended a couple of Yoga retreats where mouna has been an integral part of the timetable. In Bali on a retreat with Emil Wendel, we were asked to be silent from the moment of rising until brunch, after the first asana and pranayama session each day. Then on a retreat in Goa with Emil and Sue Pendlebury, we were asked to remain in silence each morning as we had done in Bali, but also we experienced two full days and nights of silence too.

I actually have no problem being silent as I like to be quiet, but there were people on the retreat, especially the Goa one, who were really challenged by the idea of silence, not being able to ignore or drown out the sound of their own inner voice, nor communicate with others verbally. Of course I loved it. When I was doing my Yoga therapy training in Vancouver last February, I spent 3 weeks living on my own and on the days when we didn't have class, the only words I would speak would be to thank people for serving me in the shop or at the Yoga studio, but other than that, I had no need to speak! I find it incredibly liberating and I start to get flustered if I haven't experienced enough silence in a week!!

I will always remember a poster I saw on the wall of an Ayurvedic clinic where I was staying in Kathamndu, that said "silence is healing". I believe it is so true. It was certainly apartof their treatment in that clinic, so that whilst there was times when music was played as this can also be healing, especially mantras and sound vibration, many of the treatments were conducted in silence, which can be so soothing for the nerves.

There was this restorative Yoga class I attended in Vanocuver last year during the time that my life was very quiet and the teacher played singing bowl music very loudly, and while I do appreciate the healing properties, it was so loud that my body became really tense as it was literally hurting my ear drums. It actually made me chuckle because it couldn't have been any less restorative, and I left feeling far more on edge than when I arrived!! I suppose it is all about balance.

Anyhow today is a lovely quiet day and long may it continue!

As for the fog, I guess we should enjoy the peace while it is there, because no doubt there will be a lot of catch up flying over the next few days!

Ross DespresComment