The world is noisy, and it comes at us in all the accessible sensory forms. It is always lit, there is something going on outside the window, the leaking tap in your washroom, the loud person on the phone, the squeaking fan of your neighbours downstairs, the eternal quarrelling couple upstairs. The world around us is nothing but disturbances.
Being in India is the worst of all. There is always this justified noise – construction work, loudspeakers, street vendors selling cheap furniture and the worst of all – the howling sabzi-waalas! It is ridiculously hard to find a silent space let alone zone out and appreciate being with yourself.
When I started experimenting with silence, it was difficult, suffocating actually. You know the feeling when a certain task is about to end but you still have to sit at it and finish it – when in your head you should already be out of it and moving on to other things – that feeling of bugs crawling inside your skin; that feeling. It was difficult but somehow my subconscious mind knew the benefits are worth going through for. And I did it.
Once I got over the prevailing vulnerability and the looming omen, it started dawning on me – the essence of being able to think clearly and the joys of zoning out.
“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”Henry Miller
Life is nothing but a bucket list of tragedies; where loss is inevitable, profit is an illusion, people are the shattered pieces of an eternal mirror and death is the only truth. It pushes you to think, to comprehend the discomfort you deny in noise. It is easier to resort to fighting for your opinions and principles when there is a lot of physical, sensory noise.
The critical step to realisation is silence, and inner silence cannot be redeemed without silence in the physical world; reason why buddhas and saints climbed mountains and dwelled forests and lakes and shrubs.
The foremost effort is to acknowledge that you might be wrong, and know that you are wrong. Whatever your state of conscience is is temporary, it is subject to change to external experiences and the inner derivations of consequences. The clearer and unbiased this deduction is, the closer we get to the truth, rather as Mark Manson puts it ‘the lesser wrong we are’. But the presence of a physical noise deteriorates this process over time and renders it subjective to external stimuli; which is, in the longer run, a flawed observation and a definitively flawed characteristic.
“Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them.”Karen Marie Moning
Silence is observable, noise you can see.
My existential and nihilist approach pushes me to end every thought with my golden rule of ‘everything is meaningless and choices don’t matter’. But the other part pulls towards the other end of spectrum – there is bound to be a meaning to all of this.
You can teach science but philosophy. Philosophy is creation and you have to unlock the gates that lead to this life of eternal wrongs and corrections. It cannot be attained in noise.
To simplify things, there is a path to meaning – a nomadic, directionless road full of mirages to self-actualisation, and there are some basics that need to be ticked off before you lead on. One of the most important is silence – inner as well as the physical world.
Spending some time in a day in utter silence is a good exercise to begin with. Although, it can become frustrating real quick real soon, but the outlasting effects are totally worth it (the millennial in me wants to tear out sometimes – totally). Try spending some time in complete silence per day.
“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.”Virginia Woolf
Here is me guiding you through a series of steps that should help you ease into the process and let you get the most out of the routine. It is meditative in nature though. Here are my six steps to the flow –
Before you sit or lie down or however you are comfortable, there is one important preparation that you must do. It is to make your room as silent as you can. Close the windows, draw the curtains, turn off the fan/ac and other electrical appliances, use a heavy carpet to dampen the ambience, or even use earplugs if you must, but make sure you have it as silent as you can.
2. Let go
This is a very fragile state you are putting yourself in. This can help you find solutions, rather get into the mindset to do so; so you need to be careful about your identity before you dive in. First and foremost, let go of any conventions that you may have of any thoughts that you may get. Remember you are just an observer. What is good or bad is just a convention – an experience is an experience, everything else is just a tag.
Let your mind be free. Let it think whatever it wants to. Let it wander into the past, foresee the future or fantasise about a chocolate brownie. Just observe!
4. Don’t hang onto thoughts
When you let your mind free, there are all sorts of wild thoughts that will occur to you. Don’t hang on to them. Let them come and go as they want. Remember you are just an observer.
Even if you hang on to thoughts and should that lead to distress, remember to correct yourself to let go and start again. It is neither a competition nor are you running a race. It is about you – you trying to understand you, everything in this realm revolves around the most important being in your life – you!
This particular moment when you are in there, as an observer, and you don’t hold on to anything, you are subjecting yourself to a state of zoning out, or in a state of flow. As Lao Tzu puts it,
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”Lao Tzu