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Expanding our Notion of Silence

Published on 29/03/16
by randy


We commonly view silence as the lack of auditory sound. Most of us believe it has something to do with ‘not talking’. Yet, we all know the talking mind continues. Our thoughts are based in language and we forever have a monologue going on in our heads. These thoughts have great power to carry us away, dramatically impacting our experience of the moment. They draw us from our capacity to hold awareness and balance to the moment. We see how the highly reactive mind suffers from these attachments. We can define ‘belief’ as an attachment to thought. The more we feed the belief, the more invested in the thought, the more emotional we can become about it. We then fill with a craving to have others believe the thoughts we’ve attached to. This process is quite different from education. The education process would recognize our duty to share with others ‘what works’. The scientific method is based on the law of efficacy. When we test this thought, using consistent methods, does it work every time? It’s my contention that taking time to ‘silence the mind’ works every time. Certain foods we consume work every time to nourish. Certain physical activities work every time to energize us. Letting go the verbal chattering in our minds is now being shown to work for mental and physical benefit by a number of recent research projects.

So let’s define this process as ‘silencing the mind’. In effect, we’re opening the hand of thought as we witness the workings of language in our minds. We’re training in the practice of stillness. Obviously, a stilled mind requires a stilled body. Several states attempted to go around the public school prayer controversy by stipulating a morning time of silence. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court viewed this as religious since students could still be verbalizing religious thought in their heads through the concept of traditional, petitionary prayer. In fact, it was referred to as silent prayer and was struck down as a violation of the separation of church and state law. So what can we do?

Prohibiting the practice of silencing the mind has not been helpful. Students come to school agitated from a variety of thoughts running through their minds, unable to focus and balance. We see this in our government and business. There’s a focus upon expression over compassionate listening. Communication moves to debate with the very notion of dialogue made impossible. Curiosity and an open mind seeking understanding moves to the mind closed to diversity and new ways of seeing things. This is what happens when we don’t put energy, time and effort into developing body/mind/spirit skills. We lose our grounding as we find ourselves driven to compete against one another. Our world moves to “us vs. them” as we feed conflict over our intentions to collaborate. The capitalistic economy fails as survivalist greed and hoarding are fed without conscience. So what can we do?

It’s my contention that materialism and moral decay thrive on our misinterpretation of ‘separation of church and state’. It’s quite humorous and tragic that public schools are held to one standard and our U.S. Congress is held to another. We stumble on this issue as we continue to print money that says, “In God we trust”, as we require a Pledge of Allegiance that says, “One nation under God”, and as our government continues to open with Christian prayer. Our political candidates struggle on this issue, some using it to get votes from the majority of Americans who’d still like to see prayer in the schools. Others using it to claim their better understanding of the Constitution, remarking on the freedoms lost from allowing a religion to be pushed in a publicly funded arena. I’ve got two things I’d propose that won’t violate this law, yet will go a long way in the evolving of the freedoms set forth in our Constitution.

First, let’s recognize that religion is derived from ‘beliefs’. These ‘beliefs’ are thoughts a group of people have chosen to attach to. Holding the principle of education high, it would behoove us to introduce the study of religions into our schools at an early age where students could analyze similarities and differences in the various world religions. Also, they could take the teachings of these religions and see which hold up to scientific study and which are beliefs passed down through second hand story telling. Those weak in their faith may feel threatened by such an approach, but I contend they’d more than likely find their religious belief strengthened when seeing how similar the teachings are across the planet. It would reduce our tendency to ‘think’ we’re right, and reduce our willingness to fight those who don’t think what we think.

Second, let’s redefine ‘silence’. Let’s call it ‘stilling the thoughts of the mind’ in a quiet setting. Recognizing this is a life long practice that requires skill, we could implement this as a critical skill set aimed to benefit one’s educational performance and quality of life. This is not prayer. It does not promote a religion and it does not threaten a religion. This is a practice proven to have dramatic benefits in health, reduces anxiety, increases awareness to the transient nature of life, and grows awareness to the interconnection of all things. It’s a skill set that deepens our compassion, gratitude and ability to forgive, all major attributes of a healthy society and most world religions.

Expansion of ‘silence’ to ‘no thought’ or ‘stillness of mind’ and elimination of the trigger words ‘meditation’, ’prayer’ and ‘God’ should go a long way in meeting the requirements of the Lemon test and slowing the materialistic/secular momentum we’ve seen from such limited legal decisions.

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