Discover the essence of Yoga, known in silence, through the first three Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, father of classical Yoga, at your computer workstation.
Silence is powerful for both spiritual and practical reasons. But how many of us can claim the power of silence for ourselves? Here’s a way to cultivate it that I teach in my Yogic Mystery School online using Patanjali’s first three Yoga Sutras as a 3-step method.
It is easy to learn practices. The internet is replete with them. But just as important as practice, is perspective. This is the objective of our process. In context, I share a video broadcast from my computer workstation at my study in Austin, Texas.
Our workstations are ideal for the practice of silence because, here, we are used to cultivating thought, sound and image; not silence. And because it is a space we use a lot every day, tapping silence in this setting can be significant for the long term.
The most valuable perspective about silence I can share with you is one that has come out of our Annual Pilgrimage in India each year. Although this is primarily a chanting pilgrimage and retreat, in the second half, we practice a “Journey into Silence”.
While our practice in India is at an ashram on the banks of a holy river in a lush, tropical forest setting, I will share with you the method so that you can practice is anywhere. And we will use the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as our reference.
Most people think about silence as the absence of sound or noise. Essentially, this means having a quiet environment in which we can “think” in peace. While this is to some degree true, the silence of external quiet is a very thin slice of true silence. And it is easily disturbed.
External silence is simply the outermost expression of silence. However, it is not the sounds themselves but the associations of those sounds in our mind and what they trigger. If we had an internal message that external sounds disturb our mind, you bet they would.
The first step therefore is to recognize our inner associations with external sounds and realize that true silence lies in the mind and its interpretations. It is this realization that leads to the unfolding Yoga, the noble yoga (Raja Yoga) as taught by Patanjali.
Patanjali’s method goes much deeper than the body. Of his 196 Yoga Sutras, only one pertains to body posture. And all he says on this subject is “sthira sukham āsanam (Sutra 2.46). Body posture should be “steady and comfortable”. That’s it!
Once we realize that in order to experience true silence, we do not seek to control our environments (or bodies) but our minds, we begin to grasp the way into discovering silence. But the mind is impetous, as the Bhagavad Gita, says so beautifully.
“The mind is strong and willfull, more difficult to control than the wind”, says Arjuna to Lord Krishna in Gita 6.34. “Yes, but by practice and detachment, the impetous mind can be controlled”, replies the holy one. Gita 6.35
So it can be tamed. By Yoga. But not the yoga of postures. The Bhagavad Gita is older than Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It serves as the oldest and most comprehensive text on Yoga. Neither text speaks of Yoga as a series of yoga postures and stretches.
Of no small coincidence is the fact that Patanjali uses exactly the same terms as Lord Krishna for the control of the mind. In Sutras 1.12 and 1.15 he speaks of abhyāsa and vairāgya (practice and detachment) as the method of Yoga, not posture and stretches.
Patanjali’s Sutra 1.2
Yoga is the control of the mind flux
योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः ॥ २॥
The second step to the cultivation of silence is to enter more deeply into the realm of mind which is not physical, like our environments. This is where the real “Yoga” happens. It is here that the greatest conflicts within ourselves are resolved, the keys to our harmony and balance.
And this is where the practice of a mantra is truly powerful, as a means to quiet the mind in a way that leads to silence. Not many practitioners actually use mantra in this way. Many are so enamoured by the sound of the mantra that they focus on sound instead of silence.
Whether or not a mantra is used, many practitioners are caught in the in-between place of “controlling the mind flux” with a mantra. “Yogaś-citta-vṛitti-nirodhaḥ” said Patanjali, the father of classical yoga. Yoga is the “control” (nirodha) of the mind flux cittavṛitti.
The second sutra can become a trap because we can get so involved with controlling the mind, like someone creating silence by controlling the environment. Imagine a meditator constantly running to change the temperature on the thermostat!
When we go to a cabin in the woods, we take our minds with us there, and there can be no mental peace despire external quiet. Similarly, we can be so preoccupied with mental quiet that we can miss the deepest silence. True silence is not solely about mental control.
The secret to silence lies in going deeper yet, to the Self. It is the Self that is silent. In fact, it is the silence itself. Deeper than than our external environment is the mind. Deeper than the mind is the Self, the very essence of who we are.
Patanjali’s Sutra 1.3
The Seer settles into (his/her) essence
tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe(a)vasthānam
तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपेऽवस्थानम् ॥ ३॥
For the third step, we must recall how we began, that most people think about silence as the absence of sound or noise. It is here that our perspective shift. Silence is not about abscence, but of presence. It is about the presence of Self, our own essence.
We may learn to control our minds, even master the art of mantras, but until we arrive at the presence of silence that is not the absence of sounds, or the control of thought, we haven’t truly arrived at the very nature of silence which is our own essence.
The reason we chant “Shaanti” (peace) at the end of every mantra is for this reason. The first is for peace in the physical, visible realm. The second for peace in the invisible (mental) realm subject to hidden forces of the unconscious. The third is the realm of the Self.
If the innermost self is disturbed, perturbed, anxious, looking outward, comparing, analysing, fragmenting, true peace is not possible. We will always look to control something either in ourselves or in others or in our environment.
Inner peace is the ability to rest within ourselves, to settle into ourselves, but this is our deepest essence, and to be able to do this in a way that is unshakable, where the silence has taken root as presence. As you learn to cultivate this, the silence actually grows.
This “growth” of silence is simply the growth or development of spiritula consciousness within ourselves. And one of the best places that we can learn to cultivate it is at our computer workstation, for it is here that we loose sight of our essence for the most part.
Here’s to your Realization!
In One Heart — Russill
Here’s the original video that inspired this entire written blog:
Image license: 123rf.com