Mauna - the practice of silence

Mauna - the practice of silence

Monday, April 29, 2024

Whilst not speaking is an important aspect of mauna, it is much more than that. 

The spoken voice is the CEO of our motor organs, but inner dialogue is also the main voice of the mind and governs all mental activity. Our lives are usually dominated by eating and speaking - what we put into our mouths and what comes out of them. Mastery of these two activities enables us to master the body, the physical world and its karmic complications.

Speech consumes much of our energy (prana), and often leads us to unwise action and entanglements. Speech is also the primary way we offer kindness and love, along with our actions. The actions our words instigate, and the energies they initiate, can have wide karmic repercussions.  Research estimates that the average person speaks 16,000 words daily! That’s a lot of words – how many are spoken with awareness, intention and sincerity?

Mauna is a sacred discipline of limiting speech; being intentionally silent, in order to allow the mind to become quiet, to become more aware of both sound and silence. This enables us to see things more clearly, to connect with ourselves, and those around us, in a more profound way.

Begin simply with not talking; this may evolve into choosing to refrain from reading and writing. Be aware of the tendency to look for distraction – checking your phone, picking up a book, filling the silence with music. Then we become aware of the busyness of our minds, unmasked and obvious when there is no distraction. This practice also teaches us to listen properly, without interrupting or formulating answers whilst supposedly listening.

Silent Mind

Outer silence means little without inner silence. Most of us have constant internal dialogues with ourselves, or with people we hope to influence, scripting and rehearsing what we want to say. Our thoughts are usually more erratic and emotional than our speech, because they move so quickly and meet no resistance from anyone since we are talking to ourselvesJ

Silence, speaking little, speaking kindly and speaking the truth are among the most powerful spiritual practices. From these observances, the fluctuations of the mind are stilled, and we realise less is so much more; silence is eloquent.

Mauna is important for all yoga practices. Without silence of outer and inner speech, our asana practice is hampered by our thoughts. Mauna is essential for effective pranayama - speech and thought are where we habitually waste or lose prana; it is also the basis of pratyahara, control of the senses and motor organs by going within, withdrawing energy from the outer world.

Mauna - the essence of Yoga

Mauna is a key yoga practice; it underlies successful mastery of all the other practices and observances, including the yamas and niyamas. Inner silence is the ultimate tool for healing, rejuvenation, balance and harmony.

Viveka, or inner discernment, is only possible when we observe rather than habitually react at a vocal level. Mauna is the gateway to guha, the secret cave of the heart, in which the entire universe dwells, and to the path of Self-realization through silence, our greatest teacher.

With regard to yoga nidra practice, the Himalayan tradition style  includes periods of silence, which is why it is such a powerful healing technique.

 “Our essential nature is boundless consciousness.  We are rooted in it when the mind focuses and settles.” 

Yoga Sutras 1.3