View of the Nant Ffrancon Valley, Snowdon
My last couple of blogs have been focused on the power of silence, the calmness and the tranquility that it brings. In my last blog on the subject, I want to think about what might be a surprising benefit of silent times – the energy and vitality that it brings.
Put very simply, using the senses, uses a lot of energy. Anyone who talks and listens a lot for their jobs will know how draining this can be. Have you experienced being with an energy hoover, the person that talks and talks … usually at you, rather than with you? How much more pleasant would a period of silent reflection have been!?
We have a wonderful technique in yoga called Pratyahara, or sense withdrawal. Pratyahara is the fifth of Patanjali’s “Limbs of Yoga” documented in the third century BC, so you know it’s important! Yoga philosophy teaches us that what we focus on takes our energy, the senses are a prime example of this, so if we are able to withdraw them, we contain our energy – simple eh?!
You can practice a simple pratyahara meditation at home. Sit comfortably, closing the eyes, allowing your breath to settle…Become aware of your physical body, the connection you make with the chair, cushion and earth. Be aware of the contact of your clothing, the different weights and textures… Now focus your attention on the sense of hearing and the sounds outside the room you are in. Draw your awareness into the sounds within the room, and finally to the sounds your own body makes… Become aware of the sense of smell. Without judgement just be aware of how the atmosphere smells… Let your focus move now to your sense of taste, can you taste the atmosphere on your lips? Are you aware of the last thing you ate or drank?… Finally become aware of the movement of your breath, watch it, in through the nose, out through the nose, not trying to alter it, just observing. Allow yourself to settle into stillness and silence…. When you’re ready to come out of the meditation take a couple of deeper breaths, slowly moving the physical body.
You can actually practice this whenever you need to bring yourself back into your centre, only closing the eyes if it’s safe to do so. I’m sure that you will soon feel the stillness and the clarity that this brings. Regular practice will also bring greater energy and vitality, as you focus your awareness internally rather than frittering it on external distractions.
If you’ve done this practice I am sure that you have experienced these benefits for yourself. If we go back, then, to our discussion on silence, can you see how not expending energy on talking and listening and all the associated thinking and opinion forming that goes hand in hand with these actions, will conserve your energy? When we observe periods of silence, it gives us chance to build up our reserves again, to fill the well.
I find that silence also focuses my mind. I get so much more done if I tune into silence, rather than talking or media. This in turn is another way of conserving my internal resources, because I’m not distracted I get more done, in less time, and with less errors! More time for play then 🙂
There are many famous people who are advocates of silence. Gandhi observed a day of silence every week, commenting that “I started my weekly observance of a silence day as a means of gaining time to look after my correspondence, but now those twenty four hours have become a vital need”. Of course, 24 hours is a huge chunk of time to commit to, but maybe you could start with an hour a week, or perhaps 15 minutes a day, whatever works for you. Give it a try and see what happens! And do let me know how you get on. Ix