Listening to what lies behind the thought process can be quite helpful in understanding ourselves beyond the verbal explanations. Certain periods in our daily routine are conducive to that listening. It is good to pay attention to those times of inner silence.

The Conditioned Mind
True calmness of the mind results from understanding the mental proclivities towards its ceaseless thought running process. There are possible gaps in that process that can be quite educative towards a non-verbal perception of life and its hidden contents. It is good to explore what lies behind the noisy mind because, otherwise, people are driven by their conditioning and they remain woefully unaware of it. That unawareness is a kind of ignorance and, as the Masters often point out, it is at the base of all suffering. Understanding the mind along the lines of ‘Know thyself’ is a matter of curiosity and eagerness to know what drives the mind along conditioned responses.

With such eagerness, there is the sensing of the vaster consciousness of which the mind is a spoiled subset – not unlike a spoiled brat! People who go through an out-of-body or a near death experience tell us a lot about the unspoiled consciousness and describe it as our True Home. Those who have fallen prey to established systems, religious or otherwise, will be effectively blocked from exploring into the vaster consciousness. This is because of the severe conditioning into which their minds are forced by the system. Emotional attachment to the system is a consequence to the mind’s habitual demands for ego-satisfaction and security. Under those circumstances, people become second-hand human beings and are afraid to step out of the conditioning.

The Bardo
There are times during our daily lives when our consciousness is not obscured by thought. With the noisy mind in action, such moments are few and far between. However, there are two occasions during a day when consciousness is less obscured by mental noise. On those occasions, there is a gap across which the mind jumps so quickly that we don’t notice the pure awareness existing in that gap. These are the moments immediately after waking up in the morning and those just before falling asleep. During those very short periods, consciousness shifts from sleep to waking and vice versa. Called Sandhyakal in Sanskrit, they represent a meeting of two things in time, and, in Tibetan language, it is called the Bardo. When we bring ourselves to focus on these Bardo periods, we get an inkling of pure awareness, a state of mind that is not dominated by thought. During our young days, the Bardo is somewhat long but, as we grow up, it shrinks thin to a hundredth of a second or even less. Fortunately, it can never be reduced to zero.

In the mornings, we can see how the thought-surge invades us as soon as we are awake. It is good to observe this entry of thought as it takes place and see how long one can remain in pure awareness. After some time, it becomes relatively easy to stay in Bardo long enough to appreciate its silence. Then it begins to keep us company through the day. The second Bardo, in the night, is a period when it is relatively harder to keep up one’s alertness. However, it becomes viable with continued interest. Such awareness clears a burdened state of mind before falling asleep and so our sleep is likely to go deeper. In other words, the quality of sleep improves and there is the likelihood of fewer dreams and less disturbing ones at that – a salutary by-product.

Nadha Yoga
One of the things that help us free ourselves from the tyranny of thought is the willingness to direct our attention to what is happening around us at any given moment. To bring this into focus, we can close our eyes and listen to the sounds coming from different directions. This is called Nadha Yoga. Here Nadha is the word for sound in Sanskrit and Yoga stands for the state of attention. It is a good feeling when we allow the sound waves to enter and vibrate within us. Nadha Yoga brings in some freedom from being dominated by the ceaseless thoughts. There is no need to set apart any routine practice time for this yoga. It is good to let it take place spontaneously as and when one is reminded of it by an inner call. During Nadha Yoga, we notice that a base of silence supports the vibrations of sound. Soon we sense that this silence is not merely the opposite of sound and that it has a life of its own and a cosmic content to it.

Sounds around us can be of different kinds: A bird’s chirping, human voice from the next room or from across a field, rustle of leaves, music from a radio, the groaning whistle of a departing train, patter of rain on the roof, the murmur of distant thunder, cry of a baby, and so on.

The conditioned mind would be at the mercy of circumstances. It cannot respond to life with the calmness of a mature mind that is restful due to its wider perceptions. Let us look at the following paragraph given as the postscript to an article by Victor Solow on his near death experience [Ref.1]:

“ I have just returned from a slow, pleasant mile-and-a-half jog. I am sitting in our garden, writing. Overhead a huge dogwood sways gently in a mild southerly breeze. Two small children holding hands walk down the street absorbed in their own world. I am glad I am here and now, but I know that this marvelous world of sun and wind, flowers, children and lovers, this murderous place of evil, ugliness and pain, is only one of many realities through which I must travel to distant and unknown destinations. For the time being, I belong to this world and it belongs to me.”

The passivity that the mind reaches through deeper perceptions is clearly demonstrated by the above presentation. A truly calm mind understands the value of passivity that takes one beyond social influence and its conditioning. Then there is the passion to live vibrantly and move towards the Divine source.

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Reference 1. I Died At 10.52 AM. Article by Victor Solow, Reader’s Digest, October 1974.

Author's Bio: 

Gopalakrishnan T. Chandrasekaran was born in Madras (now Chennai), India. He received his doctoral degree in Coastal Engineering from the North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA in 1978; served on the research and teaching faculty of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, the North Carolina State University and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Kuwait.

Aside from his professional involvements, he was interested in the philosophic issues of life for the last forty years or so. This led him to the messages of Ramana Maharishi, Lao Tzu, J Krishnamurthy, UG Krishnamurthy, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Eckhart Tolle, Marcus Aurelius and similar Masters. His book entitled “In Quest of the Deeper Self” is the outcome of his reflections on those and his wish to share the outcome with others.

Gopalakrishnan is a member of the International Association for Near Death Studies, Durham, NC, USA. He lives in Kodaikanal, a hill town in the southern part of India, with his wife Banumathy who also received her doctoral degree from the North Carolina State University, in Organic Chemistry. Now they are both retired and currently involved in developing a fruit farm at a village 20 km from their residence. They have a daughter and son who are both married and settled.