Silence, Stillness and the Trap of Mental Awakening
Silence, Stillness and the Trap of Mental Awakening
All experience of Pure Awareness and true Awakening comes out of Silence. Indeed, God, or The Source, is Silence. Silence is pure Being, pure unmanifested, undifferentiated Is-ness. It’s what remains when we remove all thoughts, sensations, forms and feelings about what exists. It is the Ultimate Foundation of what we really are.
The Silence we’re pointing to here, is much deeper than the silence experienced in a soundproof room or a moment where everything in our environment is totally quiet. This is the Silence where nothing exists except Pure Awareness. So if we want to experience Ultimate Awareness, we must enter into this primordial silence.
A paradox is that when we first hear about and feel attracted to experiencing this deep spiritual Silence, we want to find out how to get there, to reach it. So we find someone who has already experienced true Silence, a Master, or a book by some enlightened teacher, and we ask how to reach it, we ask for step-by-step instructions…and in doing so, immediately fill that Silence with words, sounds, objects, and pre-drawn conclusions.
When all we need do is just be silent. Just stop, listen deeply & quietly, with all of our being, and one-by-one, let go of everything that is not silence. First we may let go of outer sounds & noises we hear, then the internal hum of our own bodies, and lastly, our own thoughts. For most, that last letting go of non-silence can be the most difficult, as most of us don’t just have a tremendous amount of thoughts, worries and judgments flooding our heads, we think we are those thoughts. So at first we may only experience short moments of silence in between this thought and that concern and the next conclusion. But that’s fine. Just stay still and allow (don’t resist) listening to each thought, each impulse, each reaction, each feeling, but add listening to the silence in between, letting go more & more into those silent intervals…and they will gradually lengthen & expand. Listen to all things, including things called “thoughts,” and, simultaneously, get very curious about the source behind all those things. What is that? What’s back there? That source is Silence.
Before, and even after, anyone experiences that Silence of Pure Awareness, there is a strong tendency to conceptualize it in words, thoughts and conclusions. So many of us, especially those who tend to be more “up in their heads,” are so used to navigating life by thinking, figuring out, and drawing conclusions about what will make us feel good and going towards that, and what will harm us, drag us down or not satisfy us and then avoiding that. This is so habitual that even when we enter spiritual life, the life where we’re looking to let go of all that body-mind-ego maneuvering, we spend our first few years (or decades in my case!) trying to conceptualize how we’re going to get there, trying to think & plan our way into non-thinking and enlightenment.
And of course, this can often be a dead-end trap for many keen thinkers whose minds are sharp and are able to suss out the very satisfying concepts of non-dual reality. “Oh, wow! I get it! There’s only One, my body, mind and ego are just illusions. I don’t have to do anything in my life, ’cause none of it matters. Just drift off into Infinite Bliss and forget the weight & responsibilities of this body and of humanity. Man, that’s a load off!” This “mentalized” enlightenment can be very tempting.
And, our minds can even generate a certain amount of feeling One with everything, so for many intelligent minds, this mental “figuring out” of how the Universe works, and how Pure undifferentiated Awareness is at the core of it, can get us high. Very high. To the point where we feel like we’ve got it, we’re there, we’ve Awakened. But, by it’s very nature, this mentally-generated “enlightenment” cannot last, because the mind changes. It’s very nature is change. So when it does, you will feel different, draw different conclusions, and your “enlightenment” goes right out the window.
The human mind simply cannot hold the vast immensity of the Unknown, of the Infinite. That’s not its job and not its design…Full Awakening is way above the mind’s pay-grade. One consistent revelation disclosed by all Masters who have become One with the flood of Full Awakening is “it’s NOTHING like I thought it would be.” Of course. Because it’s outside the realm of thought.
So we must be vigilant to not find ourselves settling for the false & fleeting mentally-generated enlightenment, instead of directly experiencing the True flower of Full Awakening. As many masters have said, it’s so easy to talk about the Dharma. Whenever you find yourself spending a lot of time talking a good Dharma and talking about your Awakening (while curiously not feeling very spiritually satisfied,) stop. Stop talking, stop thinking, stop efforting with your mind & plans about how you’re going to reach enlightenment (or convincing yourself that you already have!) and drop back into deep Silence. A good clue is, if you can’t just sit and be silent for a long, long time, almost infinitely, then you’re still in your ego-mind, not in Pure Awareness. When you finally enter that Primordial Silence, it will be the loudest, most all-encompassing Self experience you’ve ever not heard…or thought about.