We all know that asana is just one part of the larger tradition of Yoga. Here in our “Supporting Practices,” we take a moment to explore a different aspect of Yoga so that we can find the activities that enrich our time both on the mat & off.
Today we look at mouna or “observing silence.” The principle behind mouna is actually similar to asana — just as it’s hard to calm our minds when our bodies are stiff or unwell, the yogis observed it can be difficult to keep the mind focused & peaceful when we are caught up in speech, especially when it’s unconscious.
In turn, by having brief periods of “intentional silence” — times where we choose to hold off on speaking, so we can calm the mind & focus on the task at hand — we can deepen our inner peace and bring more presence to the events & activities of our lives. The benefits of mouna include:
Greater peace of mind
Improved focus & clarity
Greater enjoyment of our current activity, whatever it may be
How to Practice…
The basics of mouna are quite simple: Start by either choosing a time of day (for example, the first 30 minutes after you rise or the last half-hour before you go to bed) or a daily activity (the morning cup of tea, washing the dishes, or an evening walk with the dog). Ideally, make it a time or activity where you might normally be tempted to distract yourself by talking.
The period doesn’t have to be long — even as little as 15 minutes can be powerful, especially on a regular basis, although obviously you might find that longer periods allow you to go even more deeply into a space of peace.
If you live with others, take a moment beforehand to explain what you’ll be doing & why — once they understand, they will be supportive, and you’ll be less tempted to interrupt your silence to explain what you are doing.
Once you’ve set a time, do your best to honor that — obviously, it’s always fine to address any urgent situation that might arise, but otherwise see if you can stay with your quietness for whatever time you’ve selected.
As you silently engage in your activity, note any difference you might experience as a result of choosing to stay quiet: Does your coffee taste better? Does a task that usually feels a bit “mechanical” or boring feel more meditative & rewarding? Do you feel more connected with your spouse as you sit or walk, in spite of the fact that you are not talking? The more you take time to note the positive impact, the more you’ll naturally find yourself tapping into this power throughout the rest of your day.
So give it a try — whether as a daily practice or a special activity during the weekend. Perhaps you, too, will find that mouna can be a powerful addition to the benefits of your yoga practice….