By Swami Veda Bharati
The practice of total silence done in the proper way can actually lengthen one’s lifespan
We have been discussing the practice of silence. Our emotions control and direct the level and tone of our voice. If one learns to calm the mind before communicating, then one can even speak while the mind is in a state of calm, that is, relative silence. With the mind being calm, the voice will be smooth and reassuring, and not invite resistance.
How far can one take the principle of saving one’s breath? Should we cease all vocal communication so that we can live longer? Should we not sing because singing uses up our breath? In the same vein, should we also not go jogging because during jogging our breaths become short and abrupt?
The answers are simple. Breath is granted to us for use. We do not wish to be wasteful nor are we being instructed to be stingy. Communication is a necessity but unnecessarily loud, hostile, angry, or hurtful communication is mindless extravagance. Furthermore, when one communicates with a sattvic mind, the peace generated will naturally deepen and lengthen our breath. Such speech is not a waste of breath.
For learning to sing, one first learns diaphragmatic breathing as we saw in the quotation from Pavarotti. During singing, one stretches one’s breath to extraordinary lengths. The music imparts joyfulness to the heart and mind and thereby, again, deepens the breath.
As for jogging, we can still answer the question, though not related to matters of speech and silence, in two ways. First, even though we gasp in short breaths during jogging, its end-result is increased lung capacity, which again lengthens our breath. Secondly, there are two ways to make your jogging more effective.
Keep your mind occupied with your mantra during each step of your jog. Train yourself to breathe to the rhythm of 1:2 ratio, so that if your inhalation is to the count of four, let the exhalation be to the count of eight. Form this habit gradually.
The practice of silence is like fasting of speech. Many who undertake a food-fast do not at the same time control the other function of the mouth, speech. We have shown above the importance of this speech-fast, with or without food-fast. Spiritually, the speech-fast is even more beneficial than the food-fast.
It is possible to undertake this speech-fast only by keeping a meditative mood to bring a degree of calmness to the mind. Watching TV and not speaking, is not silence. After half a day of silence, talking on the phone for a two-hour gossip session does not make one a practitioner of silence.
There needs to be a sankalpa, or mental resolve to silence before starting; an affirmation, “I shall keep my speech silent, mind meditative and body relaxed.” Then, keeping the meditative mood, mantra-japa, and breath awareness, continue such practices during the period of silence. Make a further resolve that after the intended period of silence you will not try to make up for this ‘deprivation’ by eating or speaking a lot.
One may undertake an hour of silence daily, or half a day weekly – but not if it causes you to neglect your duties towards your family.
A swami often hears statements like, “I live alone, so I am always in silence.” That is not practice of silence, not unless one does the sankalpa, and keeps the mind in a meditative mode.
In our ashram at Rishikesh, we train people in the art and practice of silence. We often start a sadhaka on one day of silence, then increase it to three days, and further extend it to seven or 10 days. After a while, one undertakes a 40-day speech-fast with a disciplined daily schedule. Right now, at the ashram there are 15 sadhakas doing a 90-day silence combined with many hours of offerings to the sacred fire daily. Their faces are calm and aglow with the energy generated and preserved, as mental brahmacharya is an essential part of such periods of silence.
In our ashram, we have well-equipped labs with proper diagnostic facilities (like EEG) and procedures to study the neurology of meditation. We use them to diagnose sadhakas before and after their periods of silence. We hope to analyse the data with the help of leading international researchers and publish them.
Do concentrate on lengthening your lifespan to fulfil your spiritual goals.
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