Living as Silence

We mostly think of silence as the opposite of noise, as something we can find by getting away from our everyday lives, or something we can create by switching off the phone, lighting a few candles, and relaxing on the couch. But silence is not an object or a commodity. It can neither be found nor created in the horizontal dimension of egoic consciousness.

Silence is ever-present in everything. It exists prior to all form. It is the groundless ground of being. You don’t have to go anywhere or do anything to find it, because it’s actually who you are. Silence is the nature of your innermost being, and when you wake up out of the dream of mistaken identity, you discover that you, too, are in fact inseparable from this silence.

Silence is what is here when you stop giving your attention to the movement of the mind and stop following the thoughts: “I need to find time for silence,” “I have to get away from all this business to get some peace,” or “If only I could stop the thoughts in my head.” In seeing the illusory nature of this kind of thinking and the futility of all running away or running toward, you come to a full stop, and what is revealed in this stopping is the ever-present silence of pure being. This full stop is not a head-on collision with something hard and finite. Instead, it is open-ended: silence has no boundary, no landing place, no center, no location, and no reference point for where it begins or ends. You find yourself in a new dimension of seeing in which awareness is recognized as the only fact of reality. When this awareness falls back into itself and becomes rooted in itself, an unlimited unconditional silence is revealed at the core of everything experienced, whether it be the whisper of the wind or the thunder of a mega-ton truck on the highway.

The majority of people, in the unilluminated state of consciousness, are so identified with the thoughts in their heads that they are totally unaware of the silence within. They mistakenly believe that everything has to be quiet in order for silence to be heard. But silence is inclusive: the chirp of the bird at your window, the song on the radio, the cry of the baby, the lapping of the waves on the shore, the piercing scream of a motorbike engine, all these sounds arise out of silence and return to silence. In order to recognize this silence, there needs to be a willingness to let go of all labels and concepts of who you think you are, as well as to relinquish all labels and concepts around how you see life. In other words, you need to stop clutching at the thoughts in your head as if they were a life raft and let go into the unknown. Most people, however, are unwilling to face the terror of death, both psychological death and physical death, so they’re actually afraid of silence.

In order to hear silence, you need to listen with the emptiness of beingness. This requires that you open to the deeper, ungraspable dimension within yourself and the world. Of course this openness makes you feel vulnerable because it dissolves the mind-created boundary between “me” and “you” and “me” and “the world.” The tendency is to retract from it, but the invitation of silence is to fall off the edge of this boundary. You need to be willing to drown in that which is unfettered by your fear, and give yourself totally to the freedom of the unknown. At first, this unknownness is something you can dip your toe into, but there comes a time on the journey of inner transformation when you are called to dive into it completely. You cannot be partly free; freedom is total.

In the full light of awakening, silence becomes the song of your life. It is the constant backdrop to the scenes acted upon it. Silent awareness is the primary experience out of which everything—thought, feeling, sensation, image, object—arises as a secondary experience. When there is no attempt to change, manipulate, gloss over, or turn the dial up or down on this secondary manifestation, there is choiceless awareness. This is a full allowing of everything into the field of awareness. Nothing is excluded and yet everything is seen to be ever-changing and therefore impermanent. Emptiness is full, and fullness is empty.

When silence fully reveals itself as the ground of being, and when you are fully open to this inner dimension of beingness, then the business of life doesn’t make an iota of difference in the primordial state of things. Whether you’re sitting still with no noise in the vicinity, or you’re in the midst of a bustling marketplace, who you really are is untouched by any of it. Both action and nonaction are experienced as an extension of silence.

Now you live in silence, from silence ... and as silence.

Adapted from Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment by Amoda Maa. Copyright © 2017 by Reveal Press. Reprinted by permission of Reveal Press.

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Amoda Maa is a contemporary spiritual teacher, author, and speaker.

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