Nada yoga - hearing the sound of silence

In the middle of a mostly wet and grey winter, we recently had two days of snow. Glorious, magical, calming snow. Being housebound, I fell into a profound peace surrounded by blissful quiet. It was as if the volume button had been turned right down - no traffic noise, machinery racket or general bakground disturbance. The whole landscape rested cosily and softly under a fluffy duvet of white....hushhhhh......

Practising yoga while watching the snow slowly fall was deeply soothing. Mind and body just relaxed and unwound without conscious effort. It felt easier to breathe deeply and fully in the Nature-induced silence. I didn't want it to end, but 48 hours later the world was back to its usual noisy, jarring self.

It reminded me of my teacher training in Bali, which coincided with the Bali celebration of their New Year. Part of the tradition was to observe to Nyepi Day. This is an officially supported 24 hours of silence across the whole island, involving closing the airport and the ports. There were officials on the street enforcing the housebound curfew, i.e. you had to stay at home and not wander about. No noise allowed, like machinery, radio, TV. You were meant to not even talk to anyone. The belief is that if the whole island is silent, evil spirits will think no one resides there and will go elsewhere. Our teachers encouraged us to respect this tradition, and I spent a whole day and evening not talking to anyone, just reading and quietly practicing yoga once in the morning and again in the afternoon. Total silence everywhere, no planes in the sky, no revving mopeds, nothing but the sound of birds and cicadas. It was one of the most blissful days of my life, I was so happy and relaxed! It was amazing to have permission to not engage with anyone, it felt like a real treat. When all the usual commotion began the next day I felt quite sad and annoyed.

The snow experience made me think about sound in the context of silence. That noise is not conducive to reflection and contemplation is obvious. No wonder the yogic scriptures advise a quiet place for meditation. But it's more than that - the quiet made me wonder what can we actually hear in complete silence?

I reached once again for the Hatha Yoga Pradipika for guidance. Here I was reminded that everything vibrates, all living things vibrate, our internal organs vibrate (scientifically proven by the way), the whole universe vibrates. And where there is vibration, by definition, there is sound. Om, of course, is the cosmic vibration of the universe, the universal mantra. By chanting Om, we are tuning into the frequency of the universe.

Nada means subtle sound vibration in sanskrit - spiritually, it is the vibration created by the union of the shiva (pure consciousness) and shakti (vital energy force) elements. If the mind is quietened down enough, it becomes absorbed in that sound - this is called nada yoga. In other words, when awareness of all external sounds and movements drop away, only the nada remains and we can "hear" this inner sound. Our nada is always there.

I look forward to more silent opportunities to focus on the sound of silence.