Many years ago, when my children were small, I often found myself overwhelmed. The mess was overwhelming, as was the responsibility of keeping the three of them alive, clean, and fed. What got to me the most though, was the noise. It seemed there was always a baby crying, a toddler whining, the tv blaring, a toy beeping, a washer washing, a dryer drying, endless, constant, maddening noise.
One day, in distress, I reached out to one of my teachers from the Temple of Kriya Yoga. I declared my resentment of the noise, and blamed it for my frazzled mental state and lack of peace. He assured me there was still silence. He asked me to listen for it.
“Listen for the silence, dear one. I promise you it is there. You are focused on the noise and so it is all you hear. Listen for the silence.”
Enoch Dasa Giri is a wise man. He had helped me carefully pack all of my tools in my yoga toolbox. I knew he was giving me another way to practice, and so I began to listen for the silence, and the silence began to reveal itself.
Sometimes it was just long enough to take a breath. As soon as I could think “It’s quiet!”, a sound would interfere, but I felt better because the silence had been there and I had not missed it. Some days I had to go looking for it. If the children were settled in for a nap or favorite tv show, I would go in search of the silence and find it hiding in a corner of the house with no one in it. I would linger there until summoned by a sound. I learned to discern the sounds that were passing and let them go, such as a car horn, and respond to the sounds that needed my attention, like a child calling for me. After a while, I didn’t even hear the sounds that were irrelevant. My life, and my mind, began to feel more spacious and I became more at peace, less resentful, and a better mom.
As I sit here, some twelve years later, contemplating Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, it occurs to me that this teaching is relevant to understanding YS 1.2 “Yoga chitta vritti nirodha”, often translated as “Yoga quiets the fluctuations of the mind.” Mental chatter, like the noise that used to torment me, is constant and often overwhelming. If all we do is listen to the mind and react to it, it will consume our peace and leave us frazzled.