The value of silence

There is irony in writing about silence. To promote something with it's opposite is rather cheeky. But in meditation today I was reminded of it's key importance. When you sit and try to think only of the breath, for example, the mind revolts because the breath is a prison. The reality of breath is less far less interesting than the experiences the mind can produce for itself.

But there is value in staying in this prison for a while. Within this prison very little is happening. It is peaceful - with the key exception of the revolted, and revolting mental reaction. It's true that some matters of real interest can arise, observation of unusual and subtle sensation. However,  it is essentially sensory deprivation. This forces the cluttered mind to clean itself up, to deal only with what is right in front of it. This is a very useful skill for those moments when one really needs to pay attention, for example when learning a new skill or sizing someone up. "Now" is the only time your mind receives new information.

Once you begin to pay attention to the prison, it is not quite what it seems. The breath is complex. The mind seeing the breath is complex. Against the backdrop of a chaotic mind this complexity is lost, but against a backdrop of relative peace this subtlety shines and is fascinating. And it is shocking how quickly and violently "normal" thoughts can break into this new-found idyllic world, literally tearing it apart.

Speech is almost always part of disruptive "normal" thoughts. A more subtle form of speech occurs, some call it "noting" - this is the process of simply naming what you find. It can also occur that questions arise "What is this?" or "Am I doing this right?" or "Is this really a sensation?". These mental verbalizations don't seriously disrupt the experience. However, words do prevent forward progress.

With practice, it is possible to eliminate all verbalizations, even the subtle ones. This is done by simply realizing when you're doing it, and stopping. Even in mid sentence. If one sets a special intention to eliminate words, it becomes relatively easy to do in only a few sittings. And one finds the meditations more meaningful and interesting.

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