Monday, July 27, 2009

Enjoy the Silence

"In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. "
- Mahatma Gandhi

Ever notice how sometimes great ideas and insights come when you are performing simple repetative tasks like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes by hand? Oue lives are so filled with activity and information that these are sometimes the only moments that the mind is simply at rest. The body is busy enough to be occupied with something simple enough to let the mind wander.

If you read this blog you probably already make some time in your life for meditation and perhaps some other practices that support mindfulness like Yoga, Qigung, Centering Prayer and so on. Though these practices are invaluable, they do not really provide the mental free time that is necessary for the mind to express itself.

There is an old saying from Zen Buddhism (Liu Chi I think, but I cant find a firm reference):

If you see a Buddha on the road, kill him.

The idea here is that in even in the most formless meditation styles, you are letting go of grasping onto thoughts. Even if you start thinking the holiest of thoughts, in meditation you need to let it go. Should the Buddha appear before you and try to get your attention, you must kill him by turning back to the meditation.

Thats all well and good, but as we refine our awareness through meditation we become clearer in thought as well as primordial awareness. Since we are living in the world of action and not just in a monestary, we should take advantage of this and provide ample time not only for meditation, but simple silence in which our mind can wander.

Anyone can do this no matter what your schedule. Here are some ideas:

  • Drive with the radio off - I like NPR and loud music as much as the next guy, but I try to make at least one car trip a day in silence.
  • Fake a habit. Hopefully you don't smoke, but that doesnt mean that you cant take a break like the smokers do. Excuse yourself, go outside and just stand or walk a bit.
  • Leave the Ipod at home when running or walking in the morning.
  • Excremeditate - thats right, just linger a bit longer in the can.
  • Tack on 10 minutes to just about anything. Running a quick errand on a busy day? Take 10 and just relax. No one has to know.
  • 5 minutes after a meditation session. Best one yet, after meditation, take 5 minutes to just walk or sit without any thought as to meditation instructions, breath, or asana, just hang and let your mind grasp onto all those thoughts that you have been setting aside during your formal practice. One of them might just be the next big thing.


  1. I especially like the last one. I like to have a buffer of time between any activities. At least five minutes to reaclimate between whatever i've done, and whatever I'm doing. Switching mental gears too quickly never seemed healthy.

  2. I'm trying all of these suggestions. It's really difficult to find a moment to

  3. And I thought I was the inventor of the term "excremeditation." /sigh. ;) Combined with "LBRP in the shower" and "Samekh while mowing the yard," and it's amazing how much time for practice there is while still watching the wee ones... There have been times where that extra minute in the head has actually helped me deal well with my two resident rinpoches as they show me the futility of material attachments by arguing about Barbies and which 'toons to watch.

  4. Lately I've been leaving the radio off in the morning. At first the silence bothers me, but then I like it.


  5. Now see, I thought I was the only one who did the LBRP in the shower!

    I left the radio off this morning too. Very peaceful. It was a nice break from the murder and mayhem.

  6. The saying if "you meet the Buddha on the street kill him" means be a leader, not a follower.

  7. Life still gets the last laugh sometimes: I live in London, ages ago I taught myself to meditate on a crowded Tube train in the rush hour, on my way to this rather stressful job I had back then - with the result now that meditating anywhere quite and UNcrowded is as singularly hard for me as you might reasonably expect the Tube to be!!

    I can meditate a treat to loud music though, maybe the new discipline of "heavy metal AUMming" is my destined gift to the world? :o)

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