By K Gitanjali May 2012 K Gitanjali discovers the power of silence when a throat infection silences her vocal chords for a brief while When I realised that I had lost my voice, the first reaction was despair. I am a teacher, and voice is the main tool in this profession. No, I did not have teacher’s nodes or anything of that sort. An ignored throat infection was screaming to be heard, and had translated itself into a complete silencing of the vocal chords. I trudged to school like an unwilling schoolgirl, wondering how I was going to get through the day. “It’s okay,” I tried to comfort myself, “It’s a Saturday, and as the children won’t be coming, there will be no need for much talking.” There were teachers all over the place when I reached school. As question papers were being readied, tempers were frayed. It was a busy day at school, and I had no voice. I settled down in front of the computer to type my paper, and once my colleagues found that I could not speak, they left me alone. As I found that I could not communicate, the compulsion to have my say, give my opinion, The snide, hurtful remark went through me, and I knew even if I had a voice I had no need to retaliate. The remarks were not about me, though they were directed at me. It was just about a bad day for someone else or offer some help died down. My mind understood that it was not possible. I began to focus on the task at hand – setting a question paper. Once the work was done, I settled down into the position of an observer. The drama became more interesting when the bell rang for recess. Over cups of tea, human nature unfolded itself. Gossip circulated, jokes were cracked, opinions exchanged. All I could do was observe it all. When a colleague took the opportunity to make a snide remark by labelling me ‘tongue-tied’, something in me rose to retaliate, but the words didn’t, rather could not, come out. I became aware that the energy that had risen died down. Maybe because I observed this energy too, I realised that it meant nothing, the snide hurtful remark went through me, and I knew even if I had a voice I had no need to retaliate. The remarks were not about me, though they were directed at me. It was just about a bad day for someone else. I also realised that I was able to take part in all the other positive vibrations circulating around the coffee room. I could smile at the friends trooping in, touch my friend’s hands in gratitude when she placed a comforting hand on my shoulder and giggle at jokes. I did not need a voice to enjoy the good vibes, and it was good that I did not have a voice to retaliate to the nasty ones. Once everyone was back at her desk, a kind of calmness settled down in me. It was as if my mind understood that it wasn’t of any use churning up thoughts as my vocal chords were paralysed for the day. Perhaps if I had watched television or a movie, I would have missed this quiet mind, as it would have reacted to what I had seen on screen. Now with the practical mind zeroing in on the task at hand, the rest of the mind settled down, and the task at the physical level was accomplished in a short span of time. I was free to touch the deep layers of mind. K Gitanjali is a teacher, writer, and healer, currently based in Bangalore. She is the disciple of Mahavatar Babaji. Here it was, in the middle of a busy school day, the stillness I had attempted to get in meditation! I went home to spend the rest of the day in silence. There was no need to shout when my dog barked, no need to answer any phone calls, or any questions. By the time, it was evening, the stillness had grown deeper, and when I sat in meditation, the silence deepened into a blissfulness that coursed through every cell. Two mornings later (after a round of antibiotics), when I woke up, I tested my voice, feeling rather like a bird does when she is getting ready to sing. Yes, it was in full form, rested and raring to go. I could speak. Yippee! I paused. There was a hint of sadness in me. I almost felt as if I were bidding goodbye to silence. “Hey, stop it,” spoke up the inner voice I had befriended during the two days of silence, “Now you know mauna means not merely physical silence. It means silencing the mind. That’s all you need to do. The rest falls into place. When you speak it will be only because there is really something coming from a deeper level that will make a difference in the world.” I scrambled out of bed, thankful for my voice, knowing it was a valuable tool under my control, which I could use to my advantage, and relegate to the backseat when it was not needed. I had had a glimpse of the deeper silent mind, and I knew the joy tucked away in its fold. I also knew that the way to reach that deep stillness was to give up effort – effort to create an impression, to create a relationship, to defend a point of view, to analyse, to justify, to label, both at the mental and the physical level. I had been practising mauna these past few years, but it had only been at the physical level. I decided that I would observe silence as part of my weekly routine – a day when I would drop into the silent mind, sans TV, sans phone calls, sans mind chatter. I would have a rendezvous with myself. Truly some of life’s greatest lessons come in the guise of problems!
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