My contemplations for the past few days have been on silence, stillness and spaciousness. I got these words from the book “Awakening the Sacred Body” by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche who is a Tibetan teacher from the Bon tradition. One of my friends took me to a class taught by one of the Rinpoche’s students in which he shared with us some ancient Tibetan yogic practices that ostensibly predates the Buddha. He taught us the “nine purification breaths” and some Tsa Lung exercises. They were physically and mentally nourishing but I didn’t want to pursue them any further because there seemed to be a lot of overlap with my current practices of meditation, pranayama, mindfulness and yoga.
I did hold on to the ideas of silence, stillness and spaciousness though and have been playing with them in my daily meditation sittings. Before I begin my sit, I usually spend a few minutes chanting mantras. So what I’ve been doing is that before I begin the chanting, I get my mind to become quiet enough for me to tune in to that inner silence, which is not really a silence with “no”-thing. I experience it as a dynamic, pregnant silence which sounds like a high-pitched hum, sort of like the hum you can hear in an electric transmission line. I used to think that maybe that’s really what I was hearing, but this sound is really felt from the inside and not the outside. Anyway, once I tune in to that, I begin to chant and I do so with full awareness of how the sound is emanating from that silence and merging back into it. The pause at the end of each 'Aum' or the pause after a line of the other mantras is a merging back into silence. The silence is the backdrop against which the sounds of the chanting and other external sounds are arising and merging.
Then I begin to pay attention to movement – movement of my breath in my body or other pulsations and sensations, or sometimes the physical movements of my body shifting. I try to pay attention to the origin and the end of these movements and become aware of the inner and outer stillness against which this movement is happening. I am most acutely aware of the inner stillness when I pay attention to the movement of my thoughts. There is a backdrop of stillness against which my thoughts are moving.
Usually by this time I can touch an inner sense of spaciousness. This spaciousness seems to be able to hold everything in it – my thoughts, the movements, the sounds, my entire inner world of ideas. In a sense, if I think of the universe, it can hold the entire universe within it. It seems infinitely expandable to be able to hold just about anything in it. Even when I open my eyes and look at the physical space around me and the objects in the room, they are all contained within this inner spaciousness. The outer space and the inner space kind of merge and everything is arising and disappearing against the backdrop of this space.
It feels so wonderful when I can touch that ground of silence, stillness and spaciousness that is also the ground of my being and the ground of all. It is hiranyagarbha, the nothingness from which all this arises and into which everything merges as if by magic.
This poem by Rumi captures the merging of the inner and outer, and the sense of continuous arising out of nothingness and merging into nothingness.
I see my beauty in you,
I become a mirror
that cannot close its eyes to your longing.
My eyes wet with yours in the early light.
My mind every moment giving birth,
always conceiving, always in the ninth month,
always the come-point.
How do I stand this?
We become these words we say,
a wailing sound moving out into the air.
These thousands of worlds that rise from nowhere,
how does your face contain them?
I am a fly in your honey, then closer,
a moth caught in the flame’s allure,
then empty sky stretched out in homage.