Silence as Fasting


Sr. Mohini at the Call-of-the-Time,
Experiment in Silence Retreat

In some ways having a period of silence is like fasting.  In India there is fasting for many occasions, such as for holidays, but also if there is some kind of an obstacle. They pray and they worship.

The Hindi word for “fast” is upvas and it means to stay in a higher space.  For upvas you have to have pure feelings or a clear purpose so you have the strength to stay without food.  The kitchen is very attractive during a fast. 
These days we tend to be intellectual about silence, but actually a period in silence is like a fast from thinking too much.  It’s a decision not to allow our minds to go on and on.  There are certain spiritual practices that help us to change the habits of the mind.  

One of them is “the 3 points”:
·         The first point is the awareness that “I am a point of light” beyond the pull of the sense organs.  This is a way of thinking about the true self.
·         The second point is that “the Creator” is also light.  This awareness allows my consciousness to go higher, to go beyond.
·         The third point is to bring a “full stop” to whatever has happened.  Past is past.  It is one thing to be aware of lessons learned, but to continue to revisit the situation and the story I have made about the situation is something else.
It is possible to go beyond practices and to move into a natural silence.  People sometimes speak about “dead silence,” but beyond that there is sweet silence.  In this state we are contented.  It is the way we feel after we have eaten a good meal and are completely satiated.  A critical mind is not a peaceful mind.  Subtle negativities arise from being critical.  In sweet silence we are beyond desires.  I am not thinking of peace, I am peaceful.  So there are spiritual practices, but when you go beyond them, you move into natural silence. 
As we move into this time of silence, we should have an aim.  What am I looking to develop within me in silence?  To face the challenges in our lives, we need power, strength.  We want to be firm and to be stable.  In silence, there should be a lot of realizations for us to work on. 
We talk a lot about habits.  It’s very natural to do this kind of fasting of thoughts in silence.  We can be natural, not forceful.
You can be in contemplation while you are walking. You can combine walking with your spiritual practice.  Notice the habits of your mind.  You may notice that the computer is a pull or that food is a pull.  Life should not be governed by habits but by awareness.  Every physical habit has a related habit of thinking.  If you react to something, it’s a habit.  For us to progress, habits have to be changed.
For example if someone has a nature of being attached, then throughout his whole life there will be a series of attachments.  Check internally and change the habit of the mind.  Change the mental attitude.  The purpose of silence is to cleanse the soul.  Fasting is cleansing.  Feelings come, for instance when we react to something.  Thoughts also come. Remove the habitual feelings and thoughts and ask, “What should be my feelings and thoughts in this circumstance?” If your response was not the right response, change your response.

With silence power you can be in the midst of things but be very silent inside. Silence is solitude. It is concentration. Silence will increase our focus and concentration. These days the biggest problem is fickleness of focus, a lack of concentration. In our physical and in our spiritual lives we need to look at deficiencies, for example a lack of focus or concentration. With physical deficiencies, your immune system is compromised and you are vulnerable to attacks of diseases. With spiritual deficiencies, you are vulnerable to attacks of negativity.

Catch yourself when you’re doing something unnecessary. Be sensible. This is how you create and maintain energy.