How Quiet Can You Be?
“The French mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, ‘All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.’ We have become experts at filling our lives with noise and activities. We wake up to the sound of the radio blaring and dress while the television is on. We drive to work listening to the latest traffic report and spend the next 8 hours in a bustling office. When we come home, at the day’s end, we delve into the evening’s activities against the background sound of television, ringing phones and humming computers”
This excerpt from Life Lessons from the Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma articulates why for the month of October I have chosen to participate in Quiet Quest, an initiative by The Yoga Foundation to raise money for people suffering with mental illness and cerebral palsy.
The challenge is to spend 30 minutes silently and mindfully each day for 30 days without all the usual distractions of the modern day. No electronic devices, smart phones, music, TV, radio or talking etc.
Having suffered for a number of years with anxiety, I know first hand how debilitating it can be and there was a time when even just the thought of having to be alone with my mind and thoughts was enough for me to start having a panic attack.
Over the last couple of years, and particularly the last 5 months while completing the Teacher Training at Sukha Mukha, I have learnt that yoga is so much more than stretching your hamstrings in downward facing dog or being able to touch your toes in a forward bend. I have been inspired to take my yoga off the mat and have realized that my daily dose of yoga doesn’t have to be an asana practice and that I don’t have to be a yogi living in a cave to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in each moment. It is an opportunity to see the true nature of who you are and how you live your life. The benefits of mindfulness are widely known and include an increased ability to focus, experience greater clarity and decrease stress, anxiety and depression. Overall it promotes greater happiness and well-being.
In his compilation of The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes that yoga is the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind. While Quiet Quest has given me the perfect excuse to have 30 minutes all to myself, it has also reminded me that my mind is in a constant state of fluctuation.
Quiet Quest has also taught me a lot about my own asana practice, particularly my reliance on music to distract me from the mental and physical discomfort I experience in certain poses. As an example, where I would usually tune out of myself and into the music in hip opening poses, for the purposes of Quiet Quest, I have had to sit with and accept the feelings of anger that come up for me in these poses, where on a subtle level, I clearly hold a lot of negative emotion.
My teachers have often told me that the attitude that we bring on to the mat can often be a mirror of our attitude towards life off the mat. During a silent practice focusing on forward bends I was forced to admit that I still experience a case of the “I’ll be happy when” mentality. Specifically I’ll be happy when my chest is lying on top of my thighs and my back is flat. My off the mat “I’ll be happy when” equivalent is usually something equally as superficial like I’ll be happy when I buy that dress and matching pair of shoes. And while I’m embarrassed to admit this – I was forced to hear it was the case in that silent practice.
Overall, through my experience with Quiet Quest I have been able to recognize how much noise is in my life and how beneficial it is to unplug and listen to the sounds within. I have learnt the importance of making room for quiet each and every single day and I intend to continue on this quest long after the fundraiser ends.
You can read more about my experience with quiet quest at www.yogaishappiness.com or better still, you can sponsor a Quiet Quester at http://quietquest.gofundraise.com.au/cms/home