One of the rituals that I have established in my life is silence. I began this practice upon returning from a silent retreat. There, I had realized how much of what we say is “filler,” or a habitual need to respond to every stimulus. When that need dissipates, the chatter of our own inner dialogue disappears. Within the cavernous space of that silence, the hum of the universe ushers in clarity and calm.
For nearly 15 years, I have set aside Sunday as a full day of silence. There are caveats, of course: If I were to receive an emergency phone message, I would, of course, break silence; or if I were out for a walk, and a stranger asked for directions, I would respond. (I would, however, meet a friendly “good morning” greeting from someone with a smile and a nod, thus preserving silence.)
I recognize that not everyone has a lifestyle that is conducive to a full day of silence every week. Yet if you notice that your schedule has an upcoming “slow” afternoon, or solo evening, or even a weekend without plans, perhaps that could be your opportunity to experiment. And you can make of it what you will: play classical or soothing music; soak in a tub after a long hike in the woods; journal; read, etc. The idea is that you are aware that you have chosen to disengage from the fray, and that the “sound of silence” can become the foundation for calm.
Special note: For some folks, the mere thought of not speaking or of being alone evokes a sense of anxiety, or at the very least, tension. That’s okay: Your reaction will be your starting point. A valid first step would be to book an hourlong massage (you may even choose to inform your massage therapist of your aim), or take a long walk by yourself. Stay conscious of your choice to practice silence, and notice the play of your emotions; that is Step One.
Starting today, and every Sunday hereafter, I will be offering a pranayama (breathing) practice, and/or a mudra (hand or body position) designed to enhance (or establish) your time in silence. The following is sort of a combo platter: The mudra creates an inner chamber for the flow and sound of your breath. This is Yoni (“source”) mudra, which immediately seals off external distractions, and imbues the practitioner with a deep sense of the self as intrinsically connected to the universal whole.
(Your eyes will be closed during this practice, so it is a good idea to read the instructions first. Your closed eyes roll upward to gaze at the Third Eye, that point between your brows, at the top of the bridge of your nose.)
1) Find your most comfortable, upright seated position: Try cross-legged on the floor (with or without a cushion to help align the spine), or with your sit bones at the edge of a chair, feet flat on the floor.
2) Next, close off your ears with the tips of your thumbs; it’s more like pushing the aperture shut, than plugging the thumbs into the ear opening.
3) Now, allow your left index and middle fingers of to lie just above and below the left closed eyelid; do the same with the right fingers and the right eye.
4) Finally, gently press your left and right nostrils with the left and right ring (third) fingers, respectively. This slight narrowing of the nasal passages invites deeper, slower, more focused breaths. The pinky fingers lie on the upper lip, and act as sensors to the light air flow emanating from the nostrils.
You are now ready for deep breaths, in and out of the nose. If all of the openings are sealed off correctly, the sound of your breath will be as if you are listening to the ocean in a conch shell. How long is this practice? Perhaps you prefer to count breaths (try for a minimum of 12 rounds of inhale/exhale); or you could set an egg timer for 1-3 minutes. Or go rogue, without count or time! Happy Sunday.