New Moon vol 37: A Day for Silence

Living Sanskrit Newsletters

In modern terminology, we call this upcoming New Moon Mauni Amāvasyā, which means “The New Moon for Silence”. We’ve shared in previous issues how observing silence is an integral part of New Moon practice. For this particular New Moon, it is THE practice. On this day, many people keep a mauna-vrata – a vow of silence – for the whole day, or at least part of the day.

When we first start performing sacred practices, the thing that usually inspires the most fear and anger is having to keep silence. For many of us, it brings back frustrating memories of being a child, full of enthusiasm and wonder, and being told to “behave and be quiet”.

Not being able to talk can kick up fear and pain around not being able to express ourselves or to connect with others. We might wonder how we’ll get anything done if we can’t talk. Or, maybe we just feel a subconscious resistance because we know if we stop talking, we’ll have to start listening instead, and discover things that we don’t feel equipped or willing to face.

Whatever our reasons for resisting silence, the fact remains that silence is a powerful, profound, and deeply transformative practice. Silence, like space, is infinite, eternal, and universal. Silence exists within and beyond all things and it directs our attention towards the supreme presence.

Silence is not the absence of sound, but rather a soundless presence that exists independently of any other sounds. This is why we can hear silence even when we are sitting next to a roaring river, gushing winds, birds and animals calling out in the forest, and – if we listen closely – even rush-hour city traffic.

Taking time to practice silence isn’t about giving up communication or connection. It’s learning to connect and communicate in the language of silence. When we speak words, there’s a limited number of ways and things we can connect with. When we speak through our silence, we can connect with everything.

It takes some time for the mind to adjust to the language of silence, but once it does, we find that we actually experience greater connection and a fuller self-expression than if we merely relied on words alone.

Practice: Observe Silence

The traditional sacred practice of observing silence is called mauna.

-The most basic way to practice silence is to refrain from speaking. This includes any unnecessary body language (you don’t want this to become an exercise in charades). If it’s an emergency, some people keep a note pad handy, although if you’re only practicing for a few hours do your best to really stick to the practice.

-Additionally, you can choose to refrain from any unnecessary reading, writing, or media consumption. This means you are not rushing to fill up the silent space with your own words, nor with the words of others.

-Observing silence can also be done visually – wherever you go, take the time to perceive the silence in each space and in each moment.

-If you are struggling to experience silence, spend some time in nature, which is inherently aligned with the energy of silence.

-When you do hear sounds, see if you can hear the silence between and within each sound. Actively listen for the sound of silence. You can also listen for the silence within your thoughts, and within your breath.

May you experience deep peace, freedom, and joy as you observe silence!