Silence is Golden

Howard Lee — August 2000

In most cultures there is a proverb that suggests that verbal silence and minimal talking is a virtue. In China there is a saying that goes ”Sickness comes in from the mouth; trouble comes out of the mouth”. However true these statements are in terms of how they apply to our daily lives depends, of course, on circumstances and situations. There is another area where silence is even more important—mental silence. To quiet the mental chatter within our brain is one of the most powerful things a person can do to enhance health, longevity and creativity. The ability to quiet down the incessant chatter is a necessary step to personal empowerment.

It is important to realize that the brain is not the mind; it is part of the mind. Compare the brain to a processor in a computer. We can turn off the computer and turn it on again when we need to use it. We can do the same with our brain—shutting down the internal chatter that engages in nebulous thoughts and worries, caught up in perpetual self absorption, and engaging in gossip that hooks into other people’s business, but serves no useful purpose other than wasting energy. As with a computer — turn it on only when you need it.

When we achieve quietude, we will be able to tap into the creativity and intuitive wisdom that is available for each of us. When you quiet down mental chatter you will hear, see, and sense these possibilities, these virtues, in any number of ways. Furthermore, quieting the brain enables us to deal with affairs and issues with more power and wisdom—making it less possible for people or circumstances to influence us to do things or participate in affairs that affect our well-being.

You may liken mental preoccupation to a toy, the spinning top. As we know, when a top is spinning it is very easily moved. Simply touching it will make it spin out of control, or send it off on a tangent. It is the same with a spinning, chattering brain. It also is very easily swayed or influenced.

Quietude is also very important to our spirit. In fact, you might say silence is food for the spirit. Whereas our physical body needs food and care, our emotional body needs comfort and support from our friends and loved ones; our spirit needs solitude and silence. It is interesting to note, for instance, that most people experience profound spiritual experiences weather accidentally or actively manifested during periods of quietude, meditation, or prayer.

There are a couple of things one should be aware of. First, the fact that we have been effectively programmed, knowingly or unknowingly, to be caught up in mental chatter. Children are not born this way. People are trained and conditioned as they start learning to develop the rational mind. However, most of the time the training we receive is flawed and misguided and we only realize this as we grow older, or when we feel we are out of control and need to do something about it. Second, many people do not even realize there’s a need for doing so, because in today’s society there is a great deal of pride in asserting that one is always thinking—meaning you are always on the ball, industrious, and in control. These, as well as other cultural habits, predispose us to a certain way of behavior. The point is that it is not necessary to be like that. In fact, the opposite is true. By eliminating mental distraction, one gains personal power.

Most people are unaware that this habit is one of the single most destructive forces impacting our health in general. Be it physical, emotional, or spiritual, it is a habit that drains our life force. It is important to make a distinction between physical energy gathered from food sources, and the life force—that sustains the body and the soul.

A chattering mind is like a leaking faucet—one that drip by drip, from morning to night, becomes a whole bathtub of water. So this goes on daily, twenty-four hours a day. Indeed, most people are caught up in negative thoughts and needless worries that zap their vitality and creativity, wasting energy that is needed to nourish body and spirit.

Unfortunately, people are caught in a dilemma because even when they realize the need to still the mental chatter, they are unable to do anything about it. It takes energy to keep the brain-mind from acting like a runaway train. Indeed, most people are already tapped out. They are so overextended mentally and emotionally that they are unable to do anything effective, regardless of the many attempts and processes that have been undertaken. Notice how much energy it takes to be a nice person—to be more civilized. For instance, at the end of the day one gets a little cranky. Why? Because you’re tired. It takes energy to maintain a sense of equilibrium and a more charitable attitude towards others.

So how do we address this dilemma—this runaway brain that squanders our vitality and life force, the very energy that is necessary to contain and restrain this internal dialogue? There are a couple of things that one can do. First, there are a number of meditation techniques that are very useful and helpful in terms of helping one to quiet the mental chatter. Beware, however, when you see a process that is too involved or complicated—you should know it’s not going to be very helpful because it may hook you into doing more thinking. The key phrase here is “not thinking”. So, any process has to be simple and direct, requiring minimal instruction and technique. Here is a very simple suggestion.

First, find a relatively quiet place and either sit or lie down comfortably. It is preferable not to close one’s eyes completely because there’s a tendency to fall asleep. Now try to gently stop thinking. Most people find, of course, as soon as they do that their brain will be filled with thoughts. The trick here is not to force it—-let whatever comes up, come up. Try not to latch on to any particular bubble of thought and turn it into train of thought. The physical equivalent would be standing on the street while taxis, cars, and buses are passing by and waving for you to get in, but you simply ignore them. So with any thought pattern or experience that comes up, you just let them go. A runaway brain is like a pot of boiling water with bubbles of thoughts floating up. With boiling water you turn off the heat; likewise with the brain. Initially, some people will find that more thoughts seem to come up. Don’t get discouraged. Just persevere and try not to concentrate in order to be in control.

To gain control, one first has to give up control. So you simply practice and practice and one day suddenly it will happen—just like that. For some people it’s not an incremental thing. One practices and seemingly nothing happens. With perseverance, one day it will just suddenly stop. Remember it is not a building process. For instance, if you are building muscles or exercising to lose weight you will see each day, each week, some incremental change—slowly getting stronger or thinner, whatever the goal. This is a different existence, and it’s really about breaking through. It’s an ability you had inherently when you were young. You lost it because you have been misguided. So it’s really a process of dismantling, rather than constructing. You keep at it, and at some point, quiet takes over.

Do not worry that you are going to lose your mind. This may sound a little bit ridiculous, but I have been asked this question by people who worry that once they quiet the mental chatter they may lose their minds. Let me assure you, I myself have been quiet for many decades. Since the age of 19 I have achieved considerable quietude in terms of my brain function, and it has enabled me to remember a whole discipline of energetic knowledge, as well as other profound experiences. Moreover, many participants of our energy workshops are able to attain silence almost immediately and discover that silence is indeed golden.

© Howard Lee — August 2000