Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Sound of Silence

Whether we like it or not, we live in a highly material world. The world therefore measures your worth using the popular yardstick of the present times. And today, that yardstick, more so than ever, is material progress. You either get onto that treadmill and start running like everyone else, or stand dismissed in the eyes of your peers.

A few years back I decided that I wanted out of that treadmill. I wanted to stop brooding about the past (very tough), or worrying about the future (even tougher!). I didn’t want to worry about where the next penny was going to come from (toughest of the lot!). I wanted to completely surrender to the Divine and leave everything to His grace. I wanted to try and live only in the present. As I found out, all this was easier said than done!

My daily spiritual practice has not been established without paying a price. I have been ridiculed, laughed at, and at the best of times, dismissed as a deluded soul, wasting his time in aimless pursuits. I have learned from and been blessed by many Masters and I remain eternally obliged for their grace. Personal problems however dictated that I do things the hard way. Alone! It’s been agonizingly slow progress, but I’m getting there. And wonder of wonders, I now see that grace enveloping me slowly but surely. It makes it’s presence felt in so many ways. The money that comes in unexpectedly just when I need it the most. The potential problems that resolve themselves in the most graceful manner possible. The joy that keeps bubbling through and makes you want to sing and dance even when life and its myriad problems threaten to overwhelm you and drag you under. I have got used to the startled glances which my performances in the car, while driving, always attract! The ability to shrug of bad experiences the moment you step away from the situation. The ability to function like a well oiled machine in the work on hand no matter what happened to you just five minutes back. That Grace always seem to be with me.
But yes, there is one common thread woven in the critics tapestry, which keeps cropping up time and again. Or should I say a common question? What they actually want to know is what I hope to achieve through my practices. Do I intend to renounce the world and take to a solitary monastic existence? Do I seriously believe that enlightenment is just around the corner and that too for a completely ordinary person like me? Is God such an ethereal, unattainable presence that it takes all these convoluted practices to even talk to him?

No, not at al! Actually, I want much more than that. Purely and simply, I would like to meet my own Divine Self. Some people call it God, but I prefer to refer to it as the Pure Consciousness within all of us. . And I believe I can attain that by being exactly where I am right now, as well as in any other place. Christopher Hills, scientist, renowned yogi and Master of Consciousness, in his book Nuclear Evolution wrote, “There is no separation between our consciousness and what we call matter.” In this book he shows how consciousness, light, space, matter and Kundalini are one and the same.

I too believe that we exist in a luminous ether, a sea of consciousness, which forms an irrevocable link between every living and non-living thing. It lies not only without, but also within all of us. How do we experience this Pure Consciousness? Well, there is a Silence within us. We sometime feel it as a loving peace, sometimes as an emptiness or void, which is simply there and has been always there, deep within us, like a sanctuary for the soul. All the seers, transcending all barriers of race and religion seem to agree that all existence, everything that is, all matter and energy, all thought, is contained in this silence.

So how do we attain this silence? There are many ways, but it is widely accepted that meditation is, by far, the simplest and best. In the words of Robert Forman, “During meditation, one may become utterly silent inside, as though in a gap between thoughts, where one becomes completely perception- and thought-free. One neither thinks nor perceives any mental or sensory content. Yet, despite this suspension of content, one emerges from such events confident that one had remained awake inside, fully conscious. This experience, which has been called the pure consciousness event, or PCE, has been identified in virtually every tradition. Though PCEs typically happen to any single individual only occasionally, they are quite regular for some practitioners. The pure consciousness event may be defined as a wakeful but contentless (non-intentional) consciousness.”

The Silence, Great Void, Satori, Pure Consciousness, whatever you may call it, is that gap, however momentary, between individual thoughts, that form part of the constant chatter created by our minds. The idea is to slowly increase that gap, till you reach a stage where you can tap into it and stretch that period at will. Slowly this silence will spill over into your daily life. I invariably experience the residual silence from meditation, immediately afterward,  for an hour or so. It is so peaceful that even small intrusions into it by anyone, or any event, during that period, seem intolerable. You just want to let go and sink deeper and deeper into it. I call it the unwinding period, after which I seem to slowly become a part of the world!

In this silence lies immense creativity. All the greatest creative artists have found the way to tap into this silence, which in turn has given birth to works which can only be described as divine. There have been many days when I start work in the morning and the whole day just flows effortlessly, like a dance. There is enormous output and creative energy, but I always get the feeling that I am not really doing anything. It is just being done. The world around me is humming with activity and noise, but it is as if I am in a warm cocoon, like a womb, insulated from everything else. Nothing intrudes inside and nothing seems to disturb the flow.

Right now, I am in what I call the developmental stage! It doesn’t help that I am basically a Type-A personality for whom perfection in whatever I do is like a mantra! The irritation, anger, frustration and all the foibles of human nature seem to be rampant within me and they sometimes lead me to wonder whether I am really getting anywhere with all this. Then I think of those periods when the Silence and nothing else ruled. I remember the bliss I frequently experience from just living. And I see a dim light at the end of the tunnel.

Great hardship is always accompanied by even greater rewards. No doubt, as I keep practicing and progressing, the frequency of such periods will keep increasing and a stage will come when I can be in this meditative state 24/7. When I become that Silence. Tat Tvam Asi and that am I too. I live for that day. I yearn for that goal. I believe that is the purpose of my existence.

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