Before the COVID-19 pandemic when countries went into lockdown, our 24/7 high-speed world was surrounded by loud sounds, vibrations and noise. The worse is unwanted sound, the excessive and unreasonable kind that make us tense and annoyed, stressed and ungrounded.
Slowing down and practising silence allow us to reclaim and restore our mind, body and soul. This is why silence is a monastic virtue, found in every monastery and monastic order. A former monk described ‘silence on the outside’ as keeping away anything that did not foster inner silence. So, no radio, no television, no newspapers, no magazines, no internet, no email, no Facebook, no Twitter. ‘Silence from the inside’ is described as not talking to start, quieting the mind and not being busy inside. It’s staying away from thinking about the past and the future, refraining from judgement, and being at once absent from the world of busy-ness and at the same time present in the moment. When one is silent for a long period, the outer noise goes first, and then the inner noise starts to evaporate. Soon, quiet reigns everywhere and time slows to a crawl. Sound becomes a curiosity—natural sounds, especially, like the flow of water or the rustle and sway of tall grass, become occasions for deeper listening and lead to a most profound inner calm.
Mithu Basu – an artist, poet, writer, traveler & collector of experiences from a multitude of interesting windows – is the inspiring founder of Dolna, an online global gallery representing contemporary artists rooted in Indian ethos. She shared her personal journey from movement to stillness and from sound to silence in an intense and stringent 10 day silent retreat. It inspired a painting of happy birds that believe they own the sky and a poem about her Vipassana experience:
From Passana to Vipassana (In the Pali language it means – From seeing to seeing with a new perspective.)
Melt the ego of I and mine,
merge with all, don’t draw a line.
Trees are your lungs if you know,
would you ever cut, or let them grow?
Your body is a garment your soul wears,
disembodied it could be assigned to a new-born bear.
In him is your chip, your memories, your thoughts,
in awareness won’t you love him with all you’ve got?
What is this life and how do we know,
the technique to live and be liberated as we go.
Texts have all the theories,
Religion, rituals for every query.
What one is saying is nothing new,
only a solution with different view.
The path was there but with darkness and fear,
the technique holds a torch for the path to clear.
Steeped in craving, aversion, immortality,
in futile clamour for material prosperity.
We deny the truth that life is temporary,
where birth and death are the only finality.
There is a way to live it right,
whatever be your current plight.
To clear the debris and start anew,
all you need is your breath and you.
The nature of temporary holds the clue,
to unlock knots and clear your dues.
It can’t be told, experience you must
in an ambience created to trust.
If tomorrow morning you were not to see,
would you not keep your ledger, balance free?
With that awareness lead your life,
this deep understanding evaporates strife.
It’s not that miseries will disappear,
joy and sorrow will appear.
This too shall pass, will be so ingrained
equanimity will see you through pleasure and pain.
It’s simple, straight, logical and fair,
Buddha holds your hand to get you there.
A lifetime he strived until enlightenment dawned,
Vipassana he named it, a new way to see was born.
Note from NOW: Silent retreats are held by 225 Dhamma Centres across the globe. If you love yourself, enrol, or to know more about Vipassana, visit www.dhamma.org