Thich Nhat Hanh’s Silence is exactly what the post modern world requires in abundance. Forget about listening to each other, we have forgotten how to pay attention to our inner voices. We are a stressed out generation, with a deficit attention span and a desire to multi-task aimlessly, as our mind flits from one subject to another. The author, whose book Anger made it to the NYT bestseller list, has hit the nail on the head when he says, “There’s a radio playing in our head, Radio Station NST: Non Stop Thinking. Our mind is filled with noise, and that is why we can’t hear the call of life, the call of love. Our heart is calling us, but we don’t hear. We don’t have the time to listen to our heart.”
This is especially true of all city dwellers, there is an abundance of communication mechanisms and daily distractions that influence our thought processes.
What we don’t realise is that, “silence is essential. We need silence, just as much as we need air, just as much as plants need light. If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts, there is no space for us.”
The book teaches you how to connect with your inner self and follow your breath. It talks about how many of us hold on to past memories, often carrying pain and anger within us; that overwhelming rage or perhaps sadness. But like Nhat points out, “If we never suffer, there is no basis or impetus for developing understanding and compassion. Suffering is very important. We have to learn to recognise and even embrace suffering, as our awareness of it helps us grow.
And while this might sound somewhat masochistic to the unevolved mind — what he is really talking about is a trial by fire. Understanding your inner turmoil, accepting what you can’t change and finding the courage the let go is the way to personal growth.
And this happens with time, as we learn to focus carefully on our breathing, learning to meditate. We have to work towards turning inwards and shutting out not just the external noise but the flurry of information that occupies our head. It is not easy, and this process for ordinary people like us comes through years of practice.
For this process of inner transformation to take place, we have to learn to practice mindful breathing. But this doesn’t mean you have to necessarily renounce the world and retire in the Himalayas. Like he says, “You use your mindfulness to become aware of everything, of every feeling, of every perception in yourself, as well as what’s happening around you in your community. You are always with yourself; you don’t lose yourself. That is the deeper way of living a life of solitude.”
The book offers plenty of insights on how to stay silent, how to communicate without taking and how to express ourselves to each other, The chapter, Nurturing a Loving Silence offers insights into how to express your disappointments to your partner in an effective but non threatening manner.
His teachings are simple and yet it is the most elementary lessons that are often the hardest to follow. Like practicing mindfulness that helps you declutter your mind of all though processes. It takes practice to reach this state and remain there even for a single minute. But that is where the challenge lies. We have to learn to not just delve inwards but focus on cleansing our mind of constant thoughts and gradually reaching a state of pure bliss. Like he says that, “Real solitude comes from a stable heart that does not get carried away by the pull of the crowd, nor the sorrows about the past, worries about the future, or excitement or stress about the present.”