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Befriend the Silence

2 years ago / by Sweta Vikram
Image credits: Shutterstock

The world is saturated with words. Most people mindlessly over-express and over-communicate, which can lead to more chaos. I mean, between the pandemic, the illnesses, losses, and other forms of suffering, we have become even more afraid of silence. Reflect on the number of Zoom calls each one has participated in 2020 alone. Meaningful conversations with friends and family are one thing; calling up a classmate from junior high, whom you haven’t seen in 15 years and will probably never see again, reveals deeper issues of relationship with noise.

The Vow of Silence

In the old days, sages would sometimes remain silent for an entire year. This act of staying silent is rooted in Sanskrit and called maun vrat. It helps you turn inward, which brings tremendous personal growth. You choose a period of time, the hours, and the frequency (How often you want to practice it) and embrace stillness. During this time, you don’t say a word or read or write or watch TV or scroll social media newsfeed. No eating or snacking. Only three things allowed: light meditation, sleep, and herbal tea. It’s a powerful way of healing your mind-body.

The Benefits of Silence

I am an extrovert who fell in love with the rejuvenating capabilities of silence many years ago. Intentional talking, versus filling the gap between two words, was the best healing modality, ever. Honestly, I had huge trepidations going in. How do you not talk, read, write, or obsess over social media? I love fasting so not eating or not watching TV wasn’t a big deal for me.

Something started to shift slowly as I tilted more towards stillness. Every week I saw a transformation in my mental capacity even when I felt tested to the limits. I have a pitta mind, which can get agitated when provoked. The disconnecting helped me connect with myself on a deeper level and face my fears, triggers, and racing thoughts. So much of the darkness is within our own heads, which we then turn into stories and start believing them as our reality. But when you embrace silence, you give yourself the time and permission to shift the narrative.

I noticed how deeply rested I felt without any access to social media. When you don’t eat, your digestive system gets the opportunity to rest and cleanse. The mind doesn’t obsess about meals. The skin glows and the digestion feels incredible. Maun vrat can also help those with anger and control issues. It taught me to be patient. It teaches you to let go and accept your status quo. Silence helps calm the mind. When you are at peace, you become friendlier towards others. See how it’s all a domino effect? I love that maun vrat allows me to conserve my energy and not react to every disturbance that comes my way. There is something so powerful about being in control of your mind.

Prior to the pandemic, I would keep maun vrat for 12 hours once a week. But given the work-from-home arrangement from an apartment in NYC, I now do it for 4 hours every week. It’s still such a gift.

Ayurveda’s Explanation for Maun Vrat

Silence can change the personality of an individual. A vitiated vata dosha (from travel, excessive talking, erratic eating/sleeping, and any kind of over stimulation) can wreak havoc on the mind-body: constipation, insomnia, nervousness, twitching, and anxiety, among other things. A vow of silence and stillness can help bring some vata back to balance and help with centering. When we can take care of our nervous system, lower our anxiety, increase our awareness, we might train ourselves to become better listeners too.

Why do we need silence now?

This is why this year, more than ever, we all need to embrace pockets of silence. With Thanksgiving just over and December gatherings, holiday parties, and travels coming up…most of us are doing large scale socializing after a span of two years. Every issue in the United States is politicized. In our quest of getting the first and last word in, a large majority of adults don’t listen to others.

I recently heard a couple talk about their upcoming vacation plans to Europe with another family where the man had lost his job. Where is the filter, the sensitivity, the kindness to feel happiness for the self, yet empathize with others? I am not saying these people were jerks; I am reiterating that they didn’t think before speaking.

Last year was more about staying home and helping stop the spread of the Virus. What many might not realize is that we have all changed during the pandemic. We have either lost a loved one or know someone close to us who lost their friend or family or job or home or livelihood. Everyone has undergone some trauma even if they don’t realize it. We are exhausted and battling compassion fatigue. People, even if unintentionally, might say something that might feel hurtful. Unfortunately, we are all short on patience and readjusting to life.

Practicing maun vrat regularly during the month of festivities and holiday celebrations can train you to hold space for others, not react to everything that’s being said, remain rooted in compassion, and continue to practice self-care while enjoying the human connection. Start with 1 hour of silence twice a week.

If you can be the reason people feel loved and heard this holiday season, why not do that? If your vow of silence can make the world a little kinder, what’s the harm?

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained Ayurvedic coach, contact me here.