Updated: Sep 1, 2019
Hello, city nomads. It has been a long time, almost eight weeks, since my last post, "We Should Have What They Have." As I was traveling across Nepal and discovering its magnificent history and natural surroundings, I felt the need to take a step back and explore the silence I was talking about in "The Sound of Your Silence." So to illustrate my journey, I've included portraits of people from Nepal (more in the complete album here).
Nepal was such a profound experience that I had to become silent. I don’t know if it was the dry spell that many writers have described but somehow I was not getting words to flow. I love that Ernest Hemingway quote on writing:
“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” - Ernest Hemingway
For some reason, when you touch something bigger than you, finding the words to write about it becomes impossible; you feel you are going to betray what you experienced. At first, your writing comes out as a flow, but then it dries. (Also I am no writer, I am sure of that. I cannot write like Hemingway or other authors I read, so I felt even more silenced by the experience.)
A close and dear friend asked me about it recently and mentioned something called in French “L’illusion du verbe." That feeling which comes when any words you can think of would never come close to conveying the divine experience or creation you are witnessing. I do believe I was experiencing this “Illusion du verbe."
It is part of the universal experience of silence in all religions. As I close my eyes and think about it, I see monks and nuns kneeling, pilgrims of all religions bending their head as they enter a sacred place, even atheists respecting the silence of majestic temples or meditation caves.
So my eight weeks of silence were in fact another level of conversation. A conversation one can only have when seeking something bigger. When was the last time in your busy life that you sought that silence? When has the beauty of the world, people and nature muted your senses and made you want to surrender to this divine sensation?
The trick is that we can seek silence anywhere—in retreats, weekends in nature, ashrams, at home or on the other side of the planet—but I am talking of a different type of silence than you might think. The silence when admiring the flight of a colorful bird, when watching a sunset, when seeing a 2,000 year old Buddha carved in stone, when walking mindfully in a forest or when walking in the subway on your way to work. You are still in the world, you are still with your friends, you still go to work, but there is a part of you which stays silent in awe of something bigger.
Mozart said that without silence, music would only be noise. So it’s the silence within that gives music its divine expression and perfection. By extension, try to visualize how the silence within everyday noise could give life balance and a peaceful architecture.
It’s in that place, free of all disturbances, that you can find the source of all your energy, ideas and life. But try to see it as a permanent source and not just a place of refuge we seek when the noise of life becomes overwhelming.
This reminds me of the definition of Yoga. I keep seeing articles online about Yoga and a certain type of extraordinary position (or asana) and how X, Y or Z is excelling at it, or how this studio is better than this other one. There certainly are bad studios that don’t really teach “Yoga." They sadly teach a dry, non-spiritual physical exercise that is as close to Yoga as Disneyland is to the real fairy tales you remember from when you were young. It looks similar, but just beneath the surface it’s fake concrete and steel structure and Snow White in a costume that she takes off when her show is done.
So what’s the definition of Yoga based on the original scriptures that talked about it 2,000 years ago?
“A mind free from all disturbances is Yoga." - Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Well this is sadly far from the way it is often taught today…
Yoga is not practiced only in a studio, it’s not something just for yogis who stand on one foot for hours (nothing wrong with that by the way but...), it’s a permanent mental practice (before any physical practice) to keep the mind un-bent by any external events, from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep. It does not mean having no emotion. It means having no disturbance from emotion. It’s a very subtle yet profound difference.
Everything is Yoga (or can be once you understand what Yoga truly is). And, once again, it does not require you to go to a Yoga studio or to perform a challenging asana. I can’t put it more simply or in a better way than in this video of Sadhguru. (Don’t be put off by how he looks—he is a very cool, modern teacher.)
So what connects Yoga to the silence I mentioned above? Well, it's of the same nature. It’s not the silence of the Ashram or of the meditation cushion (both of which are still very useful). It’s the silence, or more precisely the stillness, of the mind during all our activities. The stillness that Yoga keeps. The grounding it provides with its unlimited energy.
Said in different terms, it's called "keeping a permanent connection to the source." I love this Wayne Dwyer public talk about that. I highly recommend you watch it. Only if you have that stillness as you go through your day can you really keep contact with the "source" and act from that place. Why is this important? Well, turn on the TV or read the news and you can see what happens when we (humans) speak, act or live in a disconnected way from this. Anger, anxiety, fear, violence, depression, etc.
"When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world. Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness." - Eckhart Tolle
So it has nothing to do with being a "yogi on a yoga mat," but more to do with being a conscious human as we wake up, go to work, spend time with our family, talk to our friends or lead a group or a company. It's the difference between being in the world and being of the world.
So for our busy life, I will end this post with a beautiful quote from Morgan Freeman, describing how profoundly life can be guided by stillness.
"Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen - that stillness becomes a radiance." - Morgan Freeman
Until next time, remember to travel life with your Heart open, always.