By Jerome Burdi
It’s easier to tame a lion than your own mind.
This is because the tool needed to quiet the mind is intangible and for many people unfathomable. It is silence.
“Go into seclusion and rest your mind on the silence,” Sri Dharma Mittra says.
Enjoy the senses, the master says, but be prepared to live without anything the world offers them. And learn to be happy about it.
Moving into silence is something hard to do and even encouraged not to do in this world of technology, where a quiet mind is ruptured every minute or less by our smart phones with all their gadgets and apps. We live in a busy world and if you’re living in New York City, it’s an even busier one.
I’ve seen people crossing the street checking their smart phones, riding their bikes and texting in front of a sunset, and of course, we’ve all been in conversations where a phone becomes a third party in them.
It’s hard to quiet the mind. But as, Dharmaji says, our practice of yoga depends on it.
He comes from a long line of yogis, poets and saints who have said the same.
“Silence is the language of God,” the beloved Sufi saint Rumi said, “all else is poor translation.”
Silence is the thing we need most to succeed in striping away the layers to get to the voice of God inside, our true Self.
“Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind,” reads The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
But silence and being alone is also a thing most of us dread.
I remember before I went on a 10-day silent vipassana meditation retreat, I could not sit still for five minutes in meditation. I was so enthusiastic about learning this ancient meditation technique that sitting for long periods with an aching back and legs was well worth it. I learned to sit!
This is a compliment vipassana meditators sometimes pay each other: “You’re a good sitter.”
But vipassana focuses on getting you to sit for an hour without moving. This is dreadful for most people. Sri Dharma uses something more practical, especially for the fast paced impatient New Yorker.
“Practice for five minutes, but do it every day,” he often says.
This is the key to success. Doing a little each day helps to keep the enthusiasm going and helps you to gradually increase your meditation practice.
And no matter how busy you are, there is always time. Get up earlier. Meditation is better than sleep.
As the Zen proverb goes: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
Once you get in the habit of giving yourself the gift of silence, of becoming the witness, it will become your favorite part of the day. I like to practice the first thing in the morning. Sri Dharma encourages practicing in the morning to make sure you get it in, calling it your “insurance policy.”
Then anything else you do after that is extra credit.
When we go silent, we can go within.
“Yoga is an internal practice,” Sri Pattabhi Jois said. “The rest is just a circus.”
At one point during my vipassana retreat I was looking out along a river while the leaves were changing and falling like feathers, squirrels were working frantically to gather their winter’s bounty, and I could almost hear the trees breathing on the mountainside.
I began to weep at the perfect beauty that we are all in together. This same feeling can come anywhere at anytime once you learn how to allow yourself to become silent. Sometimes I get it while riding the subway car to Manhattan in the morning, and everyone looks like flowers.
“When you are quiet,” Sri Dharma said, “you see everything with love.”
Jerome Burdi is a Brooklyn native who discovered yoga during a shamanic retreat in Brazil in 2010. Since then, he’s been enveloped by the path of the yogi. He left his job as a newspaper journalist to go to Rishikesh, India, and become a yoga teacher. Upon returning to NYC, he discovered Dharma Yoga and has been hooked. Though Jerome grew up in NY, he had to go to India to come back and see Sri Dharma with clear eyes and to hear the truth that is Dharma Yoga.
Jerome is also a Middle Eastern style percussionist and holistic nutritionist