After a busy day, I plonked myself on the bed, leant against the headboard and relaxed while my mind gently focused on my breaths flowing in and out. Before I knew it, I had nodded off - only to find myself still in the same position at 4am the next morning. I peered through the window at the leafy road outside. Things were as they always were except that there were no cars or people passing by. Everything was perfectly still and tranquil. A brief moment of inner peace and joy arose in me and a smile began to spread across my face. I stood there for ten minutes in a state of inexplicable happiness before going back to sleep with that joy in my heart. Later that day, I sat looking at the multi-coloured flowers on the patio and, once again, an inner peace and happiness arose.
The scenery of the road and the patio hadn't changed much. Since when had looking at them brought forth such peace and happiness? I searched through the meaning of this and realised that the difference lay in the silence of the scenery and the stillness of the mind. The mind had been free of thought. There had been no word or judgement to accompany what I saw. Nor was the mind flitting from the past to the future - it was simply a state of being. What a wonderful feeling!
The mind's very nature is to think - with an inclination towards negativity. It can race ahead into the future or backtrack to the past while we are watching TV, reading, eating, or chatting. Even when we don't even want to think! Sounds, sights, smells and sensations just pass us by. We look with our eyes, hear with our ears, smell with our noses, taste with our mouths, feel with our bodies, while our thoughts wander elsewhere. Too many thoughts and our mental peace is disrupted, rendering us unable to appreciate the beauty of the present moment, whether it be from the song of the birds, the warmth of the sunshine, the dew drops on the grass or the blossoms of spring. Our heart and mind are not there with them.
When others tell us their troubles, we tend to focus on how to help or respond to their dilemma. Often what they really need is just someone to listen - to make them feel better. We think and thereby fail to sense how they feel and we misjudge what they want. Such is often the case with a husband and wife. Studies suggest that stressed women like to talk to get things out of their system, while men like to solve things as quickly as possible and move on. If a wife tells her husband what has been troubling her, her husband, wanting to help resolve it, tends to give advice. All she wants is a quietly listening husband, but she gets more opinion and more advice - as if she doesn't have enough of those battling in her own head!
This mind is always making noise - more so when we are not talking. To develop silence of the mind, initially you need a quiet place. Then listen to your mind without expressing any opinion to confuse the matter. Simply listen - like you would patiently listen to someone's anger without saying anything; that person will stop and calm down. It is the same with the mind. If it is inclined towards sadness, look at it silently. You may find, for example, that this sadness stems from unresolved issues or prolonged anger that you have held on to. You are faced with the choice: to let go unconditionally or with reservations? You can look into that as well and you will see that all these problems come from the confused mind that does not understand. Inasmuch as it wants to be happy, it gets confused with too many thoughts arising. On the one hand it wants to let go. On the other, there's the ego and the need to punish others. Our thoughts are noisily battling; we can't see the way out. Once you notice this, you will laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of your own mind!
If you are not used to silence, you might find it frightening or boring even. In that state, the mind may create some scary images or persuade you to do something else. You need to bring it back to the present moment - to the in-out breaths.
Cultivate silence. Not only does it make you a good listener; it also helps to calm the mind, give rise to wisdom - enabling you to understand yourself and others better. Who knows, an empty road in the early morning light can become your perfect route to stillness, peace and joy tomorrow!